Nate Cassie & Ethel Shipton. An interview about Time and Space

I would like to start this interview with a simple introduction. Where do you come from, how did you become artists, what are your current projects?

Nate Cassie: I grew up on the East coast and the Midwest and I have lived in San Antonio since moving here to attend graduate school in 1993. I have always made things since I was little. When I got to college, I found that art was a place where I could include all my areas of interest, from math and physics to history and philosophy. Currently I am working on projects for INK fair in Miami and on several group shows for next year.
Ethel Shipton: I was born and raised in Laredo, TX, on the boarder to Mexico, and I attended the University of Texas, studied architecture and ended with art. I worked for the Texas House of Representatives as a photographer for 8 plus years. I lived and worked in Mexico City in 1990 and 1992, and then I returned to Texas and found myself moving to San Antonio, TX. I’ve made San Antonio, TX, my home where I lived and worked as an artist for the past 18 or so years. Most currently, my work has dealt with looking at community and understanding the beauty of working as an artist, as you make objects and influence movement forward in ones world.

Since and why you have worked in team?

NC: We have worked on specific curatorial projects like Vacancy together, but not in creating artwork. The photographic portrait print in the exhibit is to my recollection the first collaboration on a work of art.
ES: We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing the works while they were in production. There are certainly overlaps, but these happened organically rather then intentionally.

Your exhibition at Ruiz Healy Art is about movement, time and timing, and most of the works are sculptural based. Could you tell me something more about it?

NC: Yes, many of the works are sculptural though I think we both also include major flat works. The majority of my work in the exhibition is sculptural, it is a return for me to a medium I have a long history with, though this is a real return after several years of flirtation. The sculptures I made in this body of work had to be three dimensional to inhabit a sort of individual personality and to exaggerate the spatial relationships within things like illusionistic space.
ES: The majority of my work is two-dimensional, starting with the exit prints. With these, I am exploring the idea that every exit is an entrance as well as pathways and journeys. Those exits and entrance are about marking space or place as well as time. The idea of timing is knowing just when to exit something or to enter somewhere.

As a curator I am interested in the concept of time within the art production and the artwork itself. There are many different definitions of time and obviously each artist has its own use and interpretation of it. Can you tell me more about your point of view? What is time? What is time in art?

ES: Time is personal and is defined by how you are influenced it. It may be defined by the passing of time, how you spend your time, how you are productive with your time, how you can find the time. As for time in Art, that is a larger question and may not be something answered here. That question my just be the bending of time historically.
NC: I have spent two years on this body of work, allowing it to develop slowly as the parts became whole pieces. However, once complete, I view these works individually as anomalies or pratfalls- specific succinct moments- existing in a compressed moment in space and time.
ES: I believe your asking also about my process of working. This is a process where I mentally carry ideas with me for years and the idea has to be fully cooked. What I mean about fully cooked is that I’ve thought about the concept, materials and production of the work fully. I’ve taken the time mentally to think about a piece inside and out and have made my choices about how to best present the work so that it carries the voice I would like to be heard.

And what about space? It is closely connected to time, and the concern about space perception is evident in your works. Can you tell me more?

NC: For me all the works have a compliment of expansion and compression, elements that occur in both space and time. The spaces in between are important in the works as well – I think for both Ethel and myself. In my work, those spaces are both formal- the spaces in between layers, the positive and negative spaces- as well as metaphoric- they read as illusionistic space, they relate to your body.
ES: Space and time, movement and place I see going hand and hand. These two elements continue to be groundwork for my artwork. We all continue to move between time and space on a moment-by-moment basis.

So you consider that an artwork expands within its space of exhibition. Would you say that the type of exhibition space is determinant in the bodily perception of your works?

NC: These pieces where made considering the spatial relation to the body as primary and the relation to the overall space as secondary.
ES: Yes.

Your artworks have furthermore a strong conceptual component. They are colorful, abstract and minimalistic. Were they always like this or did you come to this language only recently?

NC: Much of my work over the last 15 years has utilized conceptual abstraction of cyclical systems as an inspiration for its inception. Many of the new sculptures are more direct abstractions form concrete objects in the physical world. I think I have gone from discussion time in a long oscillation to representing time and space in an instant. Formal qualities have been and continue to be major considerations.
ES: The conceptual component in my work usually comes from the everyday and then presenting my version/ view of the everyday to an audience for a closer look. This is an element that has always been present the work.

You have curated an important project called Vacancy, a series of one-night projects in San Antonio. Can you tell me what are your thoughts behind that?

NC and ES: Vacancy is a series of single night events occurring every other month using dormant, non-art spaces in San Antonio and beyond. As practicing artists, we both utilize some aspects of community in our work, and the desire for this project was to create a forum for experimentation, development and celebration for San Antonio artists.

So it is about public art and the community, a wonderful connection to your current exhibition. Did that influenced further your current way of working? And if it is, what about your next projects?

NC and ES: It’s about presenting new and unique works in a setting to engage a larger audience that is perhaps not art-specific due to changing venues. Both Vacancy and the current body of our individual works have there own energy. While they perhaps feed one another and even share interests, they are necessarily separate endeavors.

The exhibition by Nate Cassie & Ethel Shipton is open until 1 Nov 2014 at Ruiz-Healy Art, San Antonio, TX, United States.