Pace Live

On Skirts

A Conversation on Bookmaking with Arlene Shechet & Gary Fogelson

Recorded on February 25, 2021

Presented on the occasion of Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair, this online conversation between Arlene Shechet and graphic designer Gary Fogelson celebrates Pace Publishing's newly-released exhibition catalogue, Skirts.

The richly illustrated book includes an essay by scholar Rachel Silveri, and new interviews with the artist by Deborah Solomon and Michaëla Mohrmann. In the conversation, Shechet and Fogelson discuss the design considerations and decisions made in relation to the sculptor’s own engagement with materials and reflect on the process of bookmaking as a way of connecting to the works.

The conversation was moderated by Oliver Shultz, Curatorial Director at Pace.

Pre-order a copy of Skirts.

Oliver Shultz (OS): Hi, everyone, my name is Oliver Shultz, I'm Curatorial Director at Pace Gallery in New York. It's my great pleasure to welcome everyone here today for a conversation between artist (opens in a new window) Arlene Shechet and designer (opens in a new window) Gary Fogelson on the occasion of (opens in a new window) Skirts, a new book on Arlene's work that Pace is thrilled to have just published. Many thanks to our friends at (opens in a new window) Printed Matter for finding a way to make this really, really important event go forward virtually and in a far less sweaty and cramped manner than we're all used to, which is one silver lining I suppose. (opens in a new window) Skirts serves as an extension of Arlene's first (opens in a new window) exhibition at Pace in New York, which opened almost exactly one year ago and closed only a few weeks later with the outbreak of the pandemic. It’s a story we've heard again and again from artists who experienced that. The book includes two fantastic new interviews with Arlene in which she is in conversation with (opens in a new window) Deborah Solomon and Michaëla Mohrmann, as well as a really great new critical essay by the scholar (opens in a new window) Rachel Silveri.

Before we begin today, I just want to give a quick shout out to our friends at (opens in a new window) DelMonico Books at whose booth I believe you will find T (opens in a new window) he Sleeve Should be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick, which is an intriguing sounding new title, which includes an essay by Arlene—one among many reasons you should check it out. Please also be aware that our friends at (opens in a new window) Hunters Point Press will tomorrow, Friday at 3 PM, be hosting a talk with Arlene and the artist, (opens in a new window) B. Wurtz, who will be in conversation with (opens in a new window) Daniel S. Palmer, so check that out. Arlene, you're obviously very busy and we're grateful for your presence here today. Not least, busy collaborating with Gary Fogelson on this wonderful book, which we're so fortunate to have in our hands, finally. I'll just take a moment to introduce Arlene and Gary. Meanwhile, let me just let you look at the book.

Arlene Shechet is an artist based in New York and the Hudson River Valley. Equal parts sculptor, conceptualist, and alchemist, Shechet has compared her studio practice to both a factory and a farm. An ardent experimentalist, Arlene is widely celebrated for her boundary-defying engagement with ceramics, often integrating kiln-fired objects with materials like wood, metal, plaster, and concrete to produce works that challenge our most basic assumptions about sculptural experience. Her work ceaselessly demands that we really redefine what we mean when we talk about color and form in relation to embodiment and physicality and nature and also to the poetics of gravity, time, and transformation. Her works have been exhibited and collected by major museums and institutions in the U.S. and internationally. We're looking forward to her (opens in a new window) upcoming show of new work at Pace in Palo Alto next month, in which she'll be showing a body of work that is quite relevant in some ways to our discussion today because it very much comes out of Arlene's interest and thinking about the medieval form of the (opens in a new window) Book of Hours. It's about the relationship, in some sense, between sculpture and books and the experience of a book.

We're also very fortunate to have with us today Gary Fogelson, who worked closely with Arlene to design this book. Gary is a graphic designer and co-founder and partner at (opens in a new window) Other Means, a studio here in New York City which specializes in what I would call bespoke collaborations with clients across the arts, architecture, fashion, media, and so on. Gary has worked on projects with numerous major institutions, many of them being pillars of our own arts community here in New York, including The Shed, the Goethe-Institut, the Guggenheim, ICA Philadelphia, and recently MoMA PS1 where he designed the catalogue for the major 2019 exhibition, (opens in a new window) Theater of Operations, which is how he and I originally met. I think that (opens in a new window) book and the cover of that book played some role in your early conversations with Arlene. Gary, maybe we can return to that when we talk about the cover.

I guess I would start by first directing to Arlene the question of what happened a year ago? Going back in time when Skirts opened, you were already in conversation with Gary about making this book and then the exhibition closed. Maybe now looking back, in what way would you think about how that experience of living in lockdown and in the ensuing months of isolation? How did that change or affect or otherwise have an influence on the way you approached making this book with Gary? Once, of course, you knew that it was happening. That would be where I would start—back in time and maybe move forward to the present from there.

Arlene Shechet (AS): Yeah, I think it's a good question because, hopefully, I'm not going to be having that experience again. I think we can say it's a unique experience. When the show had to close down and so many things just got immediately shut, there were tons of things that were just about to happen in relation to having the show—in terms of people seeing it and all kinds of tours coming through, all kinds of curators, all this promise of stuff. And then not just the non-promise, but the possibility of death is suddenly happening and scurrying around. Afterward, when I finally got to sit down, I realized I was having this experience that I would say was like being separated at birth from my work. Forget, you know, just the show I had been working on for a couple of years. Gary had fortunately come to the studio before the work was done. Those early moves really flooded back to me, that “Oh my God, thank God somebody saw it,” “will this book happen?” I was being very uncomfortably weaned from my work ahead of time. This is not supposed to be how it is because every artist out there knows that having the show is the completion of the work. Completing the work in the studio is one thing, but sharing it, having people participate in it, is the completion of the work. Not only that, it's my experience, it's the artist’s experience of seeing and feeling people interact with the work that is so important. My experience of actually getting to look at it in a foreign environment, which also happened to be an environment that I designed specifically for the work—where the walls are, where the pieces are in relationship to one another. All of those things were really foremost in my brain. Then there was just a feeling of immense gratitude that we had gotten this project underway and that there would be, with all of the pain of being separated, there would be—I think the word you used was really good—“an extension” of the show taking the form of the book. That's what I wanted and that's what I think Gary also wanted and what we worked—all of us, the Pace team, everybody involved, Deborah, Mica, Rachel—to make. This book is not a document of, it's much more than that. It's an extension of the show. The experience of that, of making it happen so that there is some resolution to that very disrupted experience. And just yesterday, having received the book, I literally had this bodily feeling of release, like, OK, it did happen, because as everybody knows, the world became mushy and still is, but it was mushier then. And so, this “Did it happen? Where am I? Who am I? Why am I taking residency?” Basically, I am comforted by this book.

OS: The book is a very solid thing.

AS: The book is so good. It's so much better than I could’ve imagined.

OS: Can you show it to us again, Arlene? I haven't seen it in the flesh. There it is. It's nice to see it in your hands.

AS: Yeah. Every part of it is something that we had a discussion about and that was a very unique experience. Doing the book is extremely akin to making the work. Usually, I'm working on something for a year or two, so it actually had this arc of time that was very familiar to me and I would say that this is really another work as part of that show.

OS: I think that that is so useful, Arlene, thank you so much for that. It's universal in some ways to all books that are also in some ways catalogues. They’re tasked with that. They have to stand in for a show that maybe you'll never see. Some of my favorite shows are ones that I never saw because they happened before I was born, but I have a book that is the show, for me, on so many levels it is how I imagine it and project myself back in time into it. This show only lasted two weeks, even though it could have lasted a lot longer, but even if it had lasted all summer, still many would never have seen it. So how does the book stand in for an exhibition? But how does it stand in even more urgently, at a time when you know that the show has been truncated in a way and not been allowed to go on? I guess I would ask you, Gary, how did you translate or think about translating the materiality, the physicality, the spatial dynamics of what it means to encounter Arlene's work, and what it did in that exhibition? How did you approach that in a book? Because it's such a radically different thing.

Gary Fogelson (GF): Yeah, it's funny, I was talking with (opens in a new window) Noah Beckwith, who's a designer that works in our studio, and we worked very closely together on a lot of the design in the studio. We were talking about this the other day, that Arlene's show is like the last thing we did before the lockdown. It was like the last cultural experience before early March. It's strange to have that be this thing that lingered on for over the past year while we were working on it. But as you said earlier, Arlene, I did have the chance to come up and see the work in the studio, and my whole impression of the work and what the book needed to do was completely informed by that experience and not really seeing it in the gallery initially. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the works are still in process. I think also, frankly, part of me was like, wait, the shows in a couple of months and these works are still being developed? That felt like a really nice thing to be a part of because it was like, OK, like we're part of this together, we're all making this thing together. So that was really nice. Also, just your studio in Kingston, seeing all of the materials that you were surrounded with, the things that were making their way into the works, the things that had been discarded, and then discussing those materials and what drew you to them really did inform a lot of the early thinking about the book, and mainly that we knew that we wanted to play with materials in the object of the book. I think that just by doing that or acknowledging that we wanted to play with materials, we knew that the book was going to be more than just a catalogue or a neutral thing. It was going to be an object. I was just looking at my notes from that studio visit, and you said a couple of things that I jotted down that informed some of those things. One was the idea of geometric and organic form being the same thing. The other one was we were having this long conversation about what it was like to live in this modernist house in the woods, which is where you live in Woodstock, and you said something else about paper and wood being the same thing. All of those things informed a lot of the decisions that went into the book. One is the shape, which is the golden ratio, which is the shape that designers use all the time that I've somehow managed my entire career never to touch, which I'm proud to say. We thought it'd be nice to make this really tall, skinny book, which also reflects the proportion of some of the work. The golden ratio being this logic that lives in both nature and the built environment, architecture in particular. Then also playing with paper and wanting the reader of the book to really understand that they're holding something that was made, that the paper is something that they notice as they flip through the book. Also that we're using different kinds of paper that allude or suggest to the fact that you can do these wildly different things with this simple material. I mean, it's not a huge idea, but it's a subtle gesture that you move through the book and you see a standard uncoated paper and then you encounter glossy paper and then you're encountering a kind of craft and a metallic and so on, and they work in different ways, which maybe we can talk about later. That was initially something that came out of the discussions, which is really all about materials, but not trying to quote Arlene's work, not trying to make a book that looked like a sculpture that was in the show, but rather a book that maybe was investigating similar themes.

OS: It feels like it comes out of a material sensibility that is deeply resonant of Arlene's work.

GF: Yeah, also as Arlene mentioned, we had lots of discussions about every aspect and something that I love is that when you're printing a book, you often can't find things because it's not available. A lot of the discussions we had about materials were like, oh, we love this thing, but we can't get it, or this isn't going to work, so what's another option. You're forced to reckon with the very real limitations of just producing something with all those constraints and how that informs the book-making process. That's all of the conversations that happen before we even talk about the most important thing, which is what does the work look like in the book? How is the rest of it laid out? But it's really just starting to think about it from that perspective of what's the object? What does it feel like? How does it relate to the sensibility of the work in the show?

OS: To those points, I'm so interested in your decision to print on both coated and uncoated paper and different colored paper. How did the logic of the images and the plates unfold? How does it unfold in the book? I can switch here to another view.

GF: This book has a sequence of signatures that are sewn, and so that creates a rhythm naturally to how you sequence these sections. This book's actually mostly done in twelve-page sections. We originally proposed an idea that we embrace that flow through the book that the plates would be the primary sections, but that each section of plates, of works, would be wrapped with a paper—with another paper. We would wrap it with a glossy sheet that would be used to represent the images of the installation at Pace. Uncoated paper is used for the details of the works, most of which were shot actually at Arlene’s studio. Then introduce one of three unique paper stocks that appear through the book in three sections, and that we decided to distribute the three texts in the book throughout. Actually, as you're flipping through the book, you can't really read any of the text in one solid chunk, everything is separated by the work. As you move through, you sort of start, you get two pages of text, then you see the first sculpture and installation and then you get the next couple of pages of text and that rhythm takes you throughout the whole book, which I think that when we proposed the structural idea, we didn't really know what we would do with those different papers. We just knew that we wanted them to be in the book, and then through conversation, Arlene made the suggestion that it would be exciting to break the text up, which was great for us to hear because that's the kind of thing that we might suggest and have someone tell us that that's a terrible idea and that they don’t want to do that. We were really happy that she was interested in having such an aggressively fragmented way of dealing with the text, which, from our perspective, it forces the reader to engage with the whole book. You can't just come in and read a text, you have to use the whole thing and you have to encounter the sculptures as you move through, so it's all intertwined.

OS: Arlene, just hearing Gary describe this mode of reading reminds me a lot of what your sculptures do to us as viewers, what they ask from us, and even demand in terms of our engagement with them.

AS: Yeah, I hadn't thought about it at all, but when this issue of the papers came up, I just found myself saying, why don't we just break it up and I think that it came from that sense of the book should be its own experience and not just be a document or standalone essays. It's a whole and I think what you're referring to is my desire to have people walk around all of my artworks and see how a simple form is actually not maybe a simple form and see how the thing keeps speaking to you when you think you understand it and it engages with more than one view. I also think I suggested it, naturally, as a big reader of art books and viewer where when I get a book that I'm excited to look at, I just want to devour it and I want to be looking and reading and looking and reading and it's not necessarily a coherent experience. Why should we pretend that we're going to have somebody sitting in an armchair reading from beginning to end and looking at only the pictures that relate to the essay and et cetera? It felt like, no, that's just an old idea that we can break with. Also, over and over again, I have the desire for the thing to be its own object because I feel like this is also a sculpture. The weight of the book, the proportions, the weight of it, it's like a great object. To investigate it like that is super interesting to me. I also see words as sculptural, which is one of the reasons... Like how people build words is... You know, it's not just concrete poetry. I could open any page that Gary and his team worked on, you know, and you can see they're taking that on, they're taking that conversation on. Some of my favorite pages are where the sculptures face off with the words and you really move back and forth and look at them.

OS: Arlene, these are some of the images you sent.

AS: Oh, yeah, like that! The way it's broken up there, that one where that sculpture is, called Fancy, and then there is that intersection of the form in my sculpture and the form in the text. And there is the modernist house. There is that craft paper, on the left, facing off with the shiny paper on the right and the craft paper does describe how paper is wood and you can see it as wood in that image. I was very interested to see how the images would play. I know how they're going to play on uncoated and coated paper, but I didn't know how the images were going to play on the craft paper and I really love it. I really love the absorbency of it.

GF: I'm really glad that you picked this spread out because I just got the book like twenty minutes ago, I hadn't seen it yet. The thing that was nice about the way we approached this was that there's some randomness to how this worked out. I'm not generally interested in creating a hierarchy between text and image, not just typography and image, but also as the text in the book and the works in the book, and the idea that as you're walking around these sculptures, you might also be talking about them, seems like a really natural way of putting these things together. But there was a lot of practical decisions that had to go into this, like the number of works, the length of the text, all of these constraints of structuring the paper, and that spread where the photo of your house is on the left, on the craft and Magic Matters on the right and the wood in that feels really like, too perfect. That wasn't really planned, but when I saw it, I was like, oh, that really worked out. When we're working on this, there's mental math that you have to do to understand where each page is falling, and you don't totally know what it's going to be until it shows up. I was really happy with that coincidence. We tried to sequence the works more or less how you might meander through the show and I don't really remember why this one ended up there, but it's nice to be in conversation with the paper next to it. Also, this conversation was a late edition to the book because it was in part reflecting on the experience of the show and an extension of that. For a while, while we were designing the book, there were only two texts and then three was even better because now we have a reason for a third type of paper. There were a lot of somewhat random things that ended up working in our favor, I think.

OS: Uncertainty seemed to be a big part of this and responding to that uncertainty and allowing it to operate as you do, Arlene, in your work all the time.

AS: Yeah, well, I wanted to bring up another thing about the different papers, which is that as you move your hands through the book, your fingers are alive. That's really special to me. A big part of what I always tried to do in the way I work—and have worked for the last thirty years—is to work with an idea about awareness and being present. There is something about touching these pages, where your fingers don't get inured to the feel of the paper, that brings that same awareness into the book. We were just dealing with designing this book and talking about this book and talking about these texts and talking about these images, but finally yesterday to open it and realize what the experience is in moving through it with one's hand in addition to two eyes, well, there's no way to describe that—the thinness, the thickness, the whole thing. Going back to what Gary said about being in my studio and seeing all the materials and wanting us to work with materials, I hadn't really taken the leap to what it would feel like. I had only thought about what it would look like. I'm going to just show something. I don't know if you can see, but this spread, where it's a single work, a single image of Iron Twins, and it spans two different papers, and you just see this very subtle gradation in color, and this piece is made of iron, and I have never, ever thought that we could actually get iron in a book, but it really does. You can see it has this metallic on one side and this like other pink quality and of course, in three dimensions—that's why I'm a sculptor—it just blows away what happens with surfaces because it's light and time and space and relation. It's very relational. That kind of thing, that situation really expands upon it. Anyway, the awareness, getting awareness into the book in this subversive but very central way, I totally appreciate.

OS: Just pulling up here, an image of the work that you were just showing.

AS: Yeah, so it’s a zooming in. And what I want is... When you see a book and you're looking at the sexy pictures... Because taking a sexy picture of an artwork, at a certain point, people know how to do that, but having pictures that actually simulate the experience of what it's like to view something, which is that you're seeing it from afar and then you're going into it, so that's why these details, it's not a simple detail, it's just like, oh, yeah, that's a different experience, it doesn't further explain the work, it explains it in a completely different vocabulary.

GF: When I look back at the photos that I took when I was at your studio and I'm sure if you looked at any photo that anybody took that was able to actually see the show, most people are probably crouching down, leaning around, finding these little moments that draw them in and that's what they're photographing. I think that in the arrangement of the images of each work, that's what we were aiming to do. We had great photographs to work with that you created with the photographers at Pace and they were doing that from your eye already. We were trying to arrange them in a way that took you in and out of the sculpture so you'd see it in its entirety, then you would see details. You would see details next to each other sometimes that you would never see at the same time because maybe they're on different sides of the sculpture but in the book, they speak to each other and then you zoom out and see its context and how you arranged it in the gallery. All using the proportions and the grid of the book to create that tension and that pacing and embracing the moments where the paper is blank so that you just see it as a material, but also that it creates a break between things. And then, as you mentioned at the beginning of the book, we introduce the cast of characters like you see a detail of almost every work. They're all there because of the number of pages that we had, but there are details of some of the works at the beginning—each one appearing on all of the types of paper that you would see later, so everyone's introduced and then they separate and do their thing later on. That was also a risk because we weren't able to test what the four-color reproductions look like on each of these different paper stocks, and we worked with a really great lithographer named Sebastiaan Hanekroot, who's in the Netherlands, who helped us with color correction and oversaw the book production. We had him on board beforehand, but he was able to go on press for us because we couldn't go, so he was able to oversee that. I didn't know until I got the gathered pages book about a couple of weeks ago how that even played out and this dynamic that you were describing with Iron Twins being on the left, which is a very thin, almost newsprint type of sheet, and then on the right, it's on the silver metallic, which really picks up that iron quality and having those things next to each other. It's subtle. I think in some ways we probably would have wanted it to be less subtle, but it's really nice how it plays out. We just had no idea. It’s not bad. I don’t know, I haven't found any mistakes yet.

AS: Yeah, OK. All right.

GF: Well, I've only had it for a couple of minutes.

AS: Yeah. I haven't found any either and I'm not looking for them.

OS: It’s one of the things about your work, Arlene, is that you take risks with your glazes, with procedures, and you experiment, and things presumably don't always work out the way you think they will. I think this book, also, you clearly took risks with it and weren't sure exactly how it would turn out, and somehow the kiln and the press felt like two machines of uncertainty and possibility that were brought into alignment with this book in an interesting way.

AS: Yeah, well, it's the design. I think it's that we, Other Means, Gary, that was a guess, but it was a good guess.

OS: Controlled uncertainty.

AS: Controlled uncertainty. Yeah, because in the end, I'm not designing it. I'm just making suggestions. I think there was maybe, at first, you had presented a craft like it would be a brown craft because I’m so earthy...

GF: I was going to ask you about that actually, yeah.

AS: Like, I’m so earthy that we need a brown craft, and I’m like, no. We’re not going to have that.

GF: It wasn't brown craft, we wanted almost like a terracotta, which is even more earthy than craft. And you said, no. You wanted it to be shinier.

AS: Yeah

GF: You gave us a really nice constraint, which maybe I can show... The one thing you said was that the spine was really important to you, which I think is really nice to hear because as anyone that has a book knows—I do own books, by the way, Oliver and Arlene have beautiful books behind them—that most of the time that you see it, you see the spine, so the spine was really important to you. We thought that, OK, well, not only is the proportion of the book important, but someone that has this book will likely also have the (opens in a new window) catalogue that was made for your (opens in a new window) show at ICA Boston and those two books would live next to each other, so we weren't thinking about how the typography necessarily related, but we wanted the books to be the same height so that they sat next to each other. Actually, so that, you know, those two books can look the same height, which you just pointed out earlier, now all of your other books are the wrong height, but at least these two work well together.

AS: Yeah, yeah.

GF: The other thing, we never would have thought about something like that but it was really nice for us to think about. Actually, when the book dummy arrived, you pointed out that they didn't match, and we actually had to go back in and adjust the entire book by like an eighth of an inch so that it would match when it showed up.

OS: We did cut it down.

GF: Which was great. And then the other really funny request came from the gallery, not Arlene, this wasn't one of your requests, but there was a request that the book be quiet. Not like visually quiet, but literally quiet so that when you flip through the pages, it doesn't make noise, which is also something I never would think about when designing a book. It worked. It's quiet. I can't say that we did anything, I just thought, well, I don't know. If you do something wrong maybe they're loud. Anyway, there were some really interesting requests that were coming in that drove some choices and drove us in a direction that we wouldn't go, which was great.

OS: I want to ask you, Gary, about the cover, and both of you, but it's so striking and the choice to make it text only and to have this really interesting typography. It's notable.

GF: Something that I hope is clear through this conversation is that ultimately, I think my studio and Arlene have some shared sensibilities, which have led to a good collaboration, but when we started out, that wasn't immediately clear because we had never worked on anything together. I don't think it was immediately clear how that would necessarily play out. We were relieved that, and I think our first conversation unanimously, Arlene, and folks from Pace were like, no, we're not doing an image. And it was like, OK, great, because I think that that freed us up to make something that was a lot more responsive to the ideas in the work, than trying to make it about a specific work? I don't know. We just knew that it was not going to be particularly interesting, and so the typography on the cover is an illustration, a graphic version of a lot of the other typographic moves that happen in the book in a much more subtle way. Subtle in comparison to the cover, which is that it's dealing with arrangement, balance, tension, and reflection and all of the things that you go through as you move around the work.

OS: Fragmentation.

GF: Yeah. Actually, inside the book, the way that the typography is arranged, there are moments, for example in the text, where if there are no footnotes, it almost feels like the balance is off, but there are those moments where everything comes in, where everything falls into place. It's meant to have this slightly imbalanced, asymmetrical quality and then, of course, the conversation that mimics the back and forth of conversation. On the cover—the front and back cover—it's really about this moving around and rearranging. Maybe it's also in some ways about... Ultimately the letters and words found their place, but I think it suggests several other arrangements that are possible—that this cover is just one arrangement that these letters could take and they just happened to start to spell out Arlene's name and the title of the show, but there are all these other permutations that are possible, which is something at least that I find in the work.

OS: The choice to justify, Gary, the “I” in Skirts with the “K” and the “R,” reminds me that words are marks and little lines, and to your point, Arlene, that language and drawing, they're not so different. They're mark-making.

AS: Well, I in fact would argue that this is an image. I think there is an image on the cover and the back. There is an image that wraps around and into this book, but definitely on the cover. If it had not been using the words, the letters this way, maybe it wouldn't have been. But you made it an image. I think that's quite, quite wonderful. I think when you came to my studio, I had (opens in a new window) given a talk at Yale a couple of years ago, and they have a really nice, a great, graphic design department, not that I was in touch with anybody specifically, but every time artists come, they have the department make a poster, and I have this great poster in my Kingston studio where they worked with the letters, and I was like that is unbelievable. I haven't been able to find who made it. I've actually tried to track that person down, but I think that also helped us have the conversation. It helped us know one another. Now, I think, how could I have ever made a book with somebody who hadn't come to my studio? I don't see that ever happening again. Similarly, what was great was everybody, like Rachel Silveri, who has a beautiful essay in the book, got into that show and we had long talks. She was there for two days and we had talked before, thinking that we were speaking and that we didn't know what was going to happen the next week, which is quite sobering. Deborah Solomon had been at the opening and had gone back. All of those things that happened surrounding the actual making of the book. The literal nitty-gritty stuff is just so important, and I'm so grateful. I'm interested to hear the reactions from the writers about the essays and the interviews being cut up. An interview by its very nature is cut up. The essay, less so. But I hope that they think it's OK.

GF: It’s all in the PDF in one piece.

AS: Yeah, OK.

OS: I think it's a really wonderful experience for the reader because you're forced to look as well as read at the same time and that that is part of what your work demands, really, is that movement between. Oddly, the abstract nature of what you do somehow lends itself toward language, I find, in a really interesting, counterintuitive way. Somehow that happens in this book very organically. We're coming toward the end here, so if anyone has questions, please feel free to raise your hand and we will happily call on you. You can also use the chat, I think. We do have one question from the chat here from Henry, “Arlene, with so many different materials being used in your work, please describe how you make your sculptures in your studio. What's in your studio?” I guess we should first say, Arlene has two studios, one in Woodstock and another in Kingston. Maybe since this book shows your Woodstock studio to some extent or the scene of the studio, maybe one way to drill down on that would be like, what do you do in Woodstock that's particular to Woodstock, and since you were there and working there without assistance in the pandemic, maybe you could talk a little bit about that—being in that place and thinking about that space, which was not where you made the work in Skirts, right? For the most part.

AS: I use both studios. I pretty much go back and forth, they’re about fifteen minutes apart. If not every day, then almost every day. Well, they're really very, very different, but the Woodstock studio has the kiln, so anything that's made of clay usually begins and ends there, and then the parts are brought to Kingston, where I have a woodshop. Also, the scale is different. The Woodstock studio is on a dirt road, up a steep incline, and not the easiest place to get in and out of. The Kingston studio is in a funky industrial neighborhood and is an old factory, and larger than the Woodstock studio, so I can drive in and out. I have access to steel workers and there's a foundry nearby. I've only had the Kingston studio for three years, so I found ways to do all this stuff before the Kingston studio. I think when I was doing (opens in a new window) Madison Square Park and I needed to get very large things in and out with a semi that was not going to happen in Woodstock. It was probably an inevitable thing that would happen anyway, but it just pushed it ahead. I don’t know. I guess the question to me would be, I can’t imagine working in one material because I don’t just work in those materials, I also do a lot of painting. The glazes are me enacting a kind of painter-self. I'm just built like that.

OS: You are indeed. I want to also observe, though, that your Woodstock studio is also where you live and you have a garden there and that relationship to nature is very particular. You sent me this image of this spread of the book where you have, on the left, one of your works from the show, where you have various materials pushed up against another in this very intimate encounter, and then on the right is the gap between your house and your studio, which you walk over these series of bridges, which is really wonderful. It's one of the most remarkable little spaces that speaks, I think, very directly to your work and also to this book because empty spaces and gaps and connecting places are so important to this design and to how this book functions.

Maybe it's interesting to think about your studio, not just as the space in which you make all sorts of objects and things and paintings, but also that whole zone in which you operate aesthetically, which includes the garden and the woods. At least it seems, from my perspective, to include those things, too.

AS: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Anyway, I'm sure that doesn't answer the question, but I don't want to go on and on.

OS: The question was broad. You do a lot of things in your studio.

AS: Yeah, yeah. I've always worked in a lot of materials, so it's not something that... When I was in school, they were just so critical of the because I just would not stay in one place. I was hungry to just learn all of it. I was like, wait, I'm in the playpen here and I'm going to try all the toys so I know what to do when I get out. I'm not here to make a product. It turns out schools want you to make a product.

OS: Everyone wants you to make a product.

AS: I know. I know.

GF: You did just make a product.

AS: I did! Now making products, I get. I get that. But in school? No, I’m very against that.

OS: I guess the trick is to not let ourselves be made into products.

AS: That is a trick.

OS: But I do think this book transcends its status as a product because, maybe, the fragmentation of it and the counterintuitive-ness and the play with materials all lend itself, on the one hand to being desirable and being precious, and I want one, you know, I'm sure many of us will want one, but at the same time, some of that desire is also frustrated by the way the book is put together. There's a little bit of labor on the part of the reader or the viewer that I think, there's a heft to that and you have to exert yourself a little bit as one does when you get on your hands and knees to take a picture of one of your sculptures.

AS: Yeah, well, I feel like, OK, if you want to read the whole essay, you're going to have to look at some pictures. You’re just going to be forced to do that. You want to look at the pictures? You're going to have to probably come across some words that might catch you. So that seems like a good thing.

OS: I think that may be also a good place to end. Well, thank you both so much.

AS: Very fun.

OS: This was really fun and so exciting to have this book, I hope everyone checks it out, gets a copy immediately. Run to or to Printed Matter. Thank you to Printed Matter. Thank you to everyone who helped make this talk happen. Thank you so much, Gary. Thank you so much, Arlene. Lovely talking to both of you.

AS: Thank you, Oliver.

OS: Thanks, everyone.

GF: All right.

OS: Bye, have a good day.


Arlene Shechet: Skirts

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  • Pace Live — On Skirts: A Conversation on Bookmaking with Arlene Shechet & Gary Fogelson, Mar 2, 2021