RUBY SKY STILER in conversation with EDA ÖZDOYURAN

Eda Özdoyuran is a young curator who draws our attention with her distinct curation. She works for various galleries, fairs and independent projects both in New York and Europe. Eda is in conversation with Ruby Sky Stiler who is not only an artist; also offers other artists a platform where they can experiment and perform freely. Eda says “For me, art is not just creating work nor is curating simply exhibiting those works. I think they both must be interwoven with disciplines such as philosophy, literature, history, architecture and anthropology. Contemporary art shouldn’t be taken as an abstract concept, independent of its era. Its relation to history and culture should not be overlooked.

You grew up in New Mexico, did your background influence your art practice?

New Mexico is a sort of “alternative” space, I know that perspective was an influence, along with my parents’ collective value in art/imagination/ creativity. Its only in retrospect that I can see how rare those conditions are. On the other hand, I didn’t learn or foster any other applicable or practical skills, so being an artist was a natural decision!

Did your fine arts master at Yale impact your technical skills or was it more of a conceptual education?

I had a rigorous fundamental for process and “making” at Rhode Island School of Design, where I did my undergrad, you could call it “technical skills”. That hands-on education was extended after school, working as an assistant in established artists studios, where I learned so much more about daily studio practice and varied, unique processes. Following those years, I went to Yale’s sculpture department, and discovered it was about the group conversation, critique and dialogue more so than it was a “finishing” school. It was a strong lesson in how to have a healthy ego, balancing the care for your work with learning how to look at it objectively with a group–sort of offer it up–without taking the response too personally. I think that is an important and serious challenge as an artist.

In a previous interview, you have mentioned that your hands are ahead of your thinking and your intelligence comes from exploring. This is quite striking. Can you expand on how is the process of your art making?

Yes, I generally begin my process by experimenting with materials and loose ideas in my studio, and try to organize the results it in my brain later, as opposed to starting with a strict conceptual premise.

It gets more difficult to create time and space for exploration, but I have to stay connected to that foundation. To take time in the studio for experimentation and failure. To suspend self doubt and frustration, and continue to try things. It feels futile most of the time, and it’s hard when I’m unable to see where things are going. At times, it’s challenging to feel “playful” in the studio considering the fact that it’s also my work (and livelihood). But there needs to be play there, it’s a part of the work.

Can you explain how your Pompeii travel inspired your art?

At the time I was visiting Pompeii, there was emerging science about the ancient frescoes at the historical city. Basically, the new thinking was that their colors had been oxidized through the fire of Vesuvius, and that the way in which they’ve been restored was not their original palate. The implication of this being that our collective understanding of these iconic sites is based on those potentially incorrect beliefs. I’m still struck by this revelation: that canonized, authoritative history can engage fiction and poetry, and that the “truth” is constantly changing and evolving. This premise is an ongoing inspiration in my work.

The dialogue you create between foam and stone has been evident throughout your whole trajectory. It is fascinating how upon closer reflection the viewer’s perception and relationship to the work changes. There is a subtle delusion. What leads you to play with such duality?

I’ve often created things out of “low” materials that read as “high” materials. For example, something might have the appearance of stone, marble, or ceramic, but in fact be crafted from foam, resin, paper and paint. I think there is often a play between the viewers’ initial assumptions about a more elevated material, and the adjustments they must make once they realize it’s an illusion made using more at-hand materials.

How do you compare your earlier practice to your current line of work?

Relating specifically to your question above, over the years the trompe l’oeil quality has become less of an integral motif, my materials and their relationship to misperception has evolved with my interests, I’m not so rigid about that element. I use similar materials, but its an evolving, (hopefully) dynamic, ongoing project. Particular forms and themes are recurring, the figure for example, and I’m recently revisiting the amphora form. The iconography is often repeating, or serial, but the approach evolves and takes on new meaning.

The merge of historic and contemporary art is a significant element in your practice. Your work carries traces from cubism and classical antiquity. What draws you to the classical era?

I really want to make things that feel connected to the past, present and future. One way I do this is by incorporating references to multiple periods of art and history–the works often share a language with cubism or classical art amongst others, but through this amalgam I strive to create my own form.

Lastly can you talk about your exhibition space titled ‘Downstairs Projects’? How did you come up with this idea?

There was a disused room attached to the boiler room in the studio building where my husband Daniel Gordon and I are located at in Brooklyn. Our landlords gave us use of that space and we’ve undertaken fixing it up a bit and programming it… thus Downstairs Projects was born! We just completed our 5th solo exhibition with a mix of emerging and established artists, and it’s been so interesting and inspiring. It’s a non- commercial space, and we give complete control to the artist to make the exhibition they want. It feels like a very “safe” space for experimentation, for community, conversation and good feelings. Danny and I are grateful that we can support artists in this (modest) way, and it’s empowering to have created a platform that’s artist oriented.