In anticipation for the upcoming Artist Talk + Closing this Friday Oct 28th I had the chance to talk with resident, Nick Sardo about his current solo exhibition titled Future Voicemail which features one of his signature oversized sculptural beings. Resembling a raw humanoid slug (well-equipped with in-set glass lens eyes), you get a looming and conflicted feeling of this thing being somewhere between disgusting and cute. An epic (300lb!) trail of sand connects the sculpture to the mantle where a white mid 2000's mac book sits lit and enshrined. I personally have been thinking about this form as a genie that is perhaps emerging from the lap top--but let's continue of and give you more of glimpse into the mind of the artist. ---Jessie Rommelt, Director, Bunker Projects
JR: How would you describe your artistic style to someone who hasn't seen your work?
NS: I have an unending struggle with that, because each piece I make is so different. I usually go with something like, “giant, vaguely human-like forms interacting in an uncomfortable way with purpose built spaces.”
JR: There's definitely a grotesque and playful gore present in your work...How does that play into your psyche or the method of your style?
NS: I undeniably have a fascination with the revealing of an imaginary body’s inner workings. I think when you present something gory or grotesque in an illustrative instead of realistic style, the effect becomes almost comical and silly. Although I take my work quite seriously, if there were no undercurrent of dark humor or playfulness, I don’t think I could properly enjoy myself.
JR: What feeling or atmosphere do you want to portray to viewers from your work?
NS: I’ve always enjoyed work that has immediately overwhelmed me, and given
me the sensation of being sucked uncontrollably into the artist’s personal
realm. Although I am not always successful, I try to accomplish the same
thing in my own practice.
JR: What is your studio process like? Where/when does a piece begin and when is it finished?
NS: Absolute obsession about minor details for way too long in the planning
stage, followed by manic (and far too compressed) construction periods. I
only know how to function with a singular focus, so I’ve never been one to
play with materials or experiment with smaller work, to then somehow end
up with a final piece. A piece begins when after staring at a wall for hours I
chance across an exact vision of what I need to create. I will do many quick
small sketches to sort out exactly how I plan to visually accomplish the
things I want, and how I can overcome any engineering challenges that come
with making such large work. A piece ends when I can’t look at it any
longer, or when my deadline comes.
JR: Future Voicemail is essentially an installation in and of itself-- Who
or what is the character or being that you have built here?
NS: The being is just that: simply a being. In this case, he exists purely as a stand
in for myself and the audience in the narrative of anticipated nostalgia I’m
attempting to create.
JR: Do you feel like you are building a world with the forms and
imagery you make? (you also talk about them as each as a stand alone
NS: I do tend to think of each work more as a unique event, because that’s how I
approach the process of making them. However, in my own private narrative
I put onto my practice, I like to imagine that all the beings I produce have
been made somewhere else as an incredibly faulty attempt to create satirical
representations of human beings.
JR: Who are some of your favorite artists?
NS: These are more most influential rather than favorite, but number one is always Tim Hawkinson. I saw his retrospective at LACMA when I was maybe 13, and it completely changed what I thought an artist could be. I also was really into Andy Goldsworthy, and a street artist named BLU. Although all extremely different artists, and perhaps not my absolute favorite aesthetically anymore (except for Hawkinson), I think I was really drawn to anyone doing something completely unique, and doing it well.
JR: You are the youngest Bunker Resident to date!-- what are some of
your future goals and how do you plan on continuing your art practice
outside of a program setting?
NS: Producing the kind of work I enjoy in different environments is a fun
challenge, so I’ll continue to seek out other residencies and living
opportunities to change and evolve my process. Beyond just constantly
finding chances to show and produce my pieces, who knows what will
happen. At this stage, I’m open to everything.
JR: Have you ever gotten really good advice? Would you modify or add
NS: A former professor used to go on lengthy rants about his hatred of fishing
line, due to it often being used to make a piece appear as if it’s floating. The
problem is, you can still see the line, so you know that piece isn’t floating,
but the artist has the audacity to try and convince you that it is. There’s no
illusion in the presentation. Whereas if you can find a way to suggest a
piece’s weightlessness and have that method be hidden, it’s a thousand times
more impressive. At face value this is useful advice, but I also took it as a
broader lesson on how important material choice is when it comes to the
final presentation of a piece. I don’t think I have much to add to that, but I
know that every time for the rest of my life I’m considering using fishing
line, I will hear the words of Joe Mannino echo in my head.
Getting to Know Emma Safir:
First of all, it's pronounced "sapphire."
BP: What will you be working on during your stay at Bunker?
I’ll be working on several projects while at Bunker. The two projects that I’ll be pursuing primarily are a series of panel paintings using flashe paint, and a series of relief sculptures involving digitally printed silk and batting. I’m interested in windows, reflections, and simulated spaces. While in Pittsburgh I plan to take a lot of photographs - I work from my photography, so I’m always trying to accumulate more imagery (never enough).
What has drawn you to printmaking as a medium?
Printmaking is a medium that I’ve been drawn to since I was a teenager - I loved the process of silk screening from the moment I tried it. I did this weird summer program run by Seth Cameron of Bruce High Quality that was all kids who’d been rejected from the Cooper Union summer program. On the last day, we silk screened some t-shirts, and I was completely hooked.
Aside from my initial magnetism towards the process, as it lies now, what I love about printmaking (specifically silk screen) is the ease with which I can achieve flat transparent color, essentially void of texture. In the past few months I’ve been applying flashe paint with a squeegee, which can simulate the flatness that silk screen lets me achieve, but at a much faster rate, and creating a singular image.
You have concentrated on windows, reflections, and views in your work, taking photographs and turning them into brightly-colored screen prints. With the transformation of the gallery space into a wall that contains these “windows” you give the viewer an imperfect impression of standing in your place, taking in a reflection of the view you might see out the original window. Can you talk about how you use/think about photography when you’re making your work?
I primarily use photography as a means to an end - or a sketch. Photography takes a subjective concept, primarily sight, and objectively mechanizes it. Part of my work is distancing myself from the image’s physical origin. When I begin the process of reassembly and editing the photos, I am already separated on a mechanized level.
Is there any single book/article/artist/album etc. that has had a major impact on your practice and why?
Absolutely - what began this fascination with windows and reflections are the illustrations in Goodnight Moon, the children’s book. The illustrations show the difference between illuminated and darkened spaces with subtle chromatic shifts. Also, I view it as an early introduction to the “architectural uncanny” a concept (and book by Anthony Vidler) that I’m referencing constantly.
What are you most looking forward to about being in Pittsburgh for the next couple months?
I’m looking forward to exploring and meeting the art community here. Additionally, I’m dying to learn as much historical information about production and Pittsburgh as I can. All of the buildings here are made of brick, wrought iron, and glass blocks, all which take an enormous amount of energy (coal) to make. The idea that these houses signify and proudly display the history of production and its culture in Pittsburgh is really intriguing to me, and something I plan to investigate further.
You can browse Emma's work and find out more about her on her website,