Ingrid Calame, In the Factory



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Hear from Ingrid Calame as she sits down in IMA's Nugget Factory to discuss her exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the influence of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, her new work, and her artistic process.


i want abstract art! ahahahahahaahah GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. Nice chairs, yo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Thank you

Ingrid's work on Constellations is really amazing

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00:00:04 I am Ingrid Calame, Traces of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

00:00:14 Well, Lisa Freiman called and initially asked me to look at the forest and I love forests, and we went in the golf cart all around,

00:00:25 but I said to Elyse Goldberg, my dealer from New York, I said, "Make sure that we have some time at the Speedway," and she thought I said freeway, you know,

00:00:37 which wouldn't be unlike me to want to do the freeway, but I was like, "No the Speedway." And so we had the tour,

00:00:47 and we had, after lunch time, but we had to catch a plane, pretty quickly, and so we were going to take a cab

00:00:58 back from there, or something, to the airport, and Elyse thought that was a bad idea because she knew the Speedway was giant

00:01:07 and it was just before the 400. So Lisa Freiman, Elyse, and I all went out there and it was

00:01:18 pretty crazy, I mean it was crazily humongous, and there were a lot of people and cars parking and parking, parking. We were worried we wouldn't get back to the airport, but anyway!

00:01:27 So, when I saw the cars doing the trials before the 400, I was really hoping that

00:01:38 we'd be able to do the project because it was so beautiful and loud and colorful, and it was just the kind of thing that I love to work with.

00:01:48 But I couldn't get on the Speedway, so I had no idea if there would be any marks, and the person from the Speedway who took us on the tour said that

00:01:57 they clean fanatically. So that even in the garages, and stuff, there is no oil spills, there is nothing

00:02:06 to trace, he thought, but when I got back here, fortunately, he was wrong.

00:02:17 Well, I trace on architect's drafting Mylar which is very durable; they use it for sails. I use that because I use it over and over again.

00:02:25 I started many years ago with tracing paper, but it disintegrates almost immediately, and I have traced marks on streets and sidewalks generally.

00:02:34 It is always on the ground and it is always public or public-ish. I don't trace inside houses or anything like that, it is all outdoors

00:02:43 and the size of the tracings are dime size to 200 foot long at the Speedway. How it works is I have been tracing since 1998 from streets and sidewalks

00:03:01 and different locations, and they all start to have a character from not only of what made the mark,

00:03:11 but also who I was when I was tracing them and then at a certain point for several years I traced alone and the marks all evolved.

00:03:19 Then when I started using assistants to help me trace because the marks started to get more intricate, who I was tracing with affected how the marks look

00:03:30 and I end up not using all the marks all the time, at all. I sort of curate what marks I use. I used everything from the Speedway

00:03:40 for these Speedway drawings and paintings because it takes so long to trace them that I end up using all the material I have.

00:03:50 Similarly, I have used everything that I have traced over and over again, so the Speedway probably will be in more drawings and paintings.

00:04:01 So I sort of curate them, thinking about the time and place, not only the idea of the place, like the Speedway or the L.A. River, but also

00:04:09 the kind of marks that I trace there, depending on the weather, what made the marks and who is tracing with me.

00:04:18 For this project, I brought two assistants with me from L.A. which was very helpful because it allowed me to work with more people from Indianapolis so that I don't have to be running around

00:04:29 between all making sure everybody understands the project, because we were doing a specific thing that some people get and some people don't get,

00:04:37 most people get and translate it to some extent. There is subjectivity. Everybody who traces with me there, the way that they trace is in there,

00:04:45 but we were trying to make basically a closed shape out of something that is gray-on-gray. We were making an outline and it has to be closed like a doughnut.

00:04:54 And so, that takes instructing people and if it is only me with ten assistants, I can only go so far. I think that there were twelve of us total on certain days.

00:05:07 There were people who responded from, mostly from Craigslist, that was the most successful. We tried the Herron School of Art, we tried listing on the Art Boards or whatever,

00:05:17 and someone responded from an Arts Association Board, but Craigslist was the best and they were involved in arts, or not, there was a soccer coach who I don't think he even studied art.

00:05:41 Chuck Close says "inspiration is for amateurs." As an artist, in terms of what inspires me, I think I just am.

00:05:50 It's kind of a grinding machine that, you know, I just keep going and even when I am really tired, I keep getting ideas.

00:06:00 In terms of this project, it was very inspired by not knowing about the Speedway. So, for me,

00:06:10 I didn't grow up in Indianapolis and I didn't grow up watching racing, but I know about it; it's part of my culture and I felt a connection to it from

00:06:21 other sources like those little hot rods when I was a kid, the matchbox cars, and the tracks, and

00:06:30 Evil Knievel and then that's my childhoods generation. And that often happens with my work, like when I went into the stock exchange and used it

00:06:39 as a container for stains from streets in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York that, again, I don't come from stock exchange background

00:06:51 or trader background, but it is part of what I hear on the radio everyday, so it is part of my life.

00:06:59 So with the Speedway, I guess I was drawn to the marks that would be made and that

00:07:10 there was an architecture to them that was different from I had been using stains from streets and sidewalks which was generated from thinking about mortality

00:07:19 in a more abject sort of way and thinking about loss, and the Speedway seemed so, sort of, overblown

00:07:28 and all of that writ large, so that it was no longer abject but became really powerful

00:07:39 and beautiful and I didn't have to make it that way just sort of is, although you know, I guess some people think tire marks are boring,

00:07:50 but a lot of people would be interested in skid marks, then crashes, and what is left and the fact that they do not leave the crashes as really,

00:08:00 that it is so pristine, it's kind of remarkable.

00:08:04 It is a breakaway from yuckier stains, mostly I have been

00:08:14 gaining access to like the stock exchange only as a private space, that being, as a container and not

00:08:24 for the marks that were left on the stock exchange floor, I was just using the building as a form. So, the Speedway used

00:08:35 the similar skills of negotiating how to get access to a private entity that I had used before, but the marks

00:08:45 themselves were very different from the marks that I have been tracing, which I generally have no problem getting access to the marks

00:08:54 I want to trace because they're junky old marks on streets or like the L.A. River is an uncared for place.

00:09:07 This year I just had a baby! Are you kidding me? Film?

00:09:15 Well, I didn't see any this year, that's for sure.

00:09:19 The Act of Seeing with Ones Own Eyes, Stan Brakhage is an experimental filmmaker, so it's all about the visual and

00:09:28 he basically makes an incredible painting with this in-time because of the close-ups and the shots accumulating

00:09:36 until you understand the whole body of the thing. So, he slowly reveals what it is that you are seeing from the increment,

00:09:45 which absolutely has to do with my project in the paintings and drawings, there is such detail overlaid

00:09:56 that you would not necessarily know that it was accurate information and it is absolutely traced 100 percent, no enlargement or shrinking

00:10:08 and it reveals a place, but it is not necessarily a place as you would recognize it.

00:10:17 Well, first of all, it started as an experiment which is a great place to start for a person, or I mean for an artist because

00:10:26 you can't totally fail at an experiment. You know, you could go well..., the experiment failed but I know this or that from it.

00:10:34 I wanted to see what these kind of marks would look like and just experiment with this new subject matter and

00:10:44 so it was a success, for me, that the paintings and drawings have a different scale than I expected.

00:10:57 They are also the first group of rectangles that I have been working with. I had been working with squares for years, and

00:11:05 so I think that there is a lot of ideas about landscape that haven't been in my work when it was square.

00:11:16 So, it is sort of coincidental that, it is not entirely coincidental, but I think I moved to the rectangle, and then the Speedway project came up and so they sort of fit together.

00:11:27 But the work, when I looked at it, I had forty-five minutes alone in the gallery today which is novel to be with the work,

00:11:35 and I realized that there was a lot of landscape ideas in it that I see, sometimes for me ideas don't come consciously, mostly ideas come unconsciously.

00:11:49 I will have an idea and then what other ideas sort of percolate up through them are unconscious. I guess, in this exhibition, I hope that people will be able to see

00:11:59 the scale of it and see a relationship between the representation and the abstraction. So, I am using everything representationally, in a way, but the drawings

00:12:09 and paintings look much more abstract than the wall painting does and taking a place from the world like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

00:12:17 and representing it in my model of representation...that's in place and I don't expect people would know all the steps that I go through to make the things,

00:12:26 but I do want it to be visually interesting enough that people might be curious as to how it was made.

00:12:32 So, I think the complexity of the artwork reflects a complexity of the making of it.

00:12:43 I love looking at art. A couple of years ago, I saw, I am not going to remember the show, it was at the Hammer Museum but it was art of the insane

00:12:54 from Germany around Nazi Germany time, and it was collected because of the inhumanity to these people,

00:13:02 and I was looking at the drawings and they are so powerful and it reminded me of what it is that I want to do, which is, you can control this little piece of paper, doesn't matter

00:13:12 how insane the world around you is going or your own head is going, you can try to make order out of it in this one little piece of paper

00:13:24 and that is something that is not...

00:13:32 always possible. Actually, I am answering not only why is art important to me but the particular form that I am choosing, which is painting and drawing.

00:13:42 I studied film-making and sometimes that takes a lot of money to have your own idea come across, except with you two, but anyway

00:13:51 that is an asterisk. But with drawing and painting, you need a pencil and a napkin.

00:14:00 Actually, probably you could use a charcoal, blood, I don't know, you really need the most limited resources to have control for that

00:14:11 five minutes over a piece of paper; on the other hand, I also have pushed with what I do, I pushed the control aspect into an uncontrol

00:14:22 by trying to go out into the world. I studied dance as a youngster and decided not to go into it because

00:14:32 for me it controlled too much what my life was. I couldn't go out into the world so much and the longevity of that career was short.

00:14:46 But I think the idea of movement is in my work...and I guess, I have just been affected by art my whole life; my mom took me to museums

00:14:56 when I was Willa's age, which is six months old or younger. So art is amazing, it lets you see other worlds.

00:15:07 It lets you create, express your own world or keep trying, which is what I think all artists I know are doing, is trying to express their world

00:15:17 or how they feel ultimately even that sounds unintellectual, but it is not

00:15:24 intellectually trying to express what they think too, and I think it reaches me, so I feel very optimistic being an artist,

00:15:35 trying to express my world without trying to tailor it to what other people will hear.

00:15:44 A writer. I mean, I don't know if I am good enough to be a writer, but I love writing and I love reading and it is the other thing that,

00:15:53 when I am blue, I read and it is an escape and the great thing about reading that

00:16:02 I like better than art is that nobody owns it. I love the idea that if you have a book, you own the book, but you do not own the idea of the book.

00:16:16 And I'm talking so loud. Like, I'm getting excited in this very quiet room.