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Rising Art: Interview with Rian Kerrane, Anastasia Pelias & Melissa Borman

Three artists, Rian Kerrane, Anastasia Pelias, and Melissa Borman, have delved into the theme of water/the sea and their personal connections to it at UNO St. Claude Gallery this month. The waters run deep. Three cultural figures are intertwined with their pursuits: Mara, a mythological sea goddess and the Gaelic word for the sea; Thalassa, the primordial Greek goddess who represents the Aegean Sea; and Kai, the Hawaiian and Japanese term for the ocean. My correspondence with Kerrane, exhibiting sculpture/installation, Pelias, a painter and video artist, and Borman, a photographer, reveals a strong connection each shares with her materials, subject, personal history, and experience of water, from travels to mythological explanations of Sea.

What are your art material backgrounds?

AP: I’m a painter who works in a lot of different media, but mostly I love oil paint &I’m addicted to turpentine.

RK:Mixed media, sculpture, installation. Lots of traditional metal casting processes, and a recent sexy relationship with casting iron, the core of Mother Earth.

Metal fabrication, knitting, integration of soft materials with industrial elements are often a visual occurrence in my work.

MB: My training is in photography and film. I started working with installation-utilizing objects, sound, text and video about ten years ago, in part out of frustration of being tied to a darkroom and/or computer lab. I found that collecting objects and words could be just as satisfying as collecting imageswith my camera. My focus has recently returned to making photographs andit feels very comfortable yet refreshing. I think it’ s important to mix things up, find new ways to say what you’ re trying to say.

Does the work in UNO St. Claude Gallery reflect themes (water/the sea, memory) you each have been working with for a while, or are these themes particular to the show?

RK: [. . .] As far back as twenty years ago, while studying in Ireland at The University of Ulster in Belfast I was obsessed with submarines, portholes, boats, stretches/skins of water made from transparent materials. Discussing the work at UNO St Claude Gallery with Kathryn I realized how similar the visuals of oscillating fans under sheet plastic were to these earlier scenes.

I work in Ireland yearly on site specific temporal “sketches” in the landscape and on the west coast shores. Works like House Home and Dun Na Mara recreate and reexamine these straightforward and direct responses to site. They allow me to explore my past, my upbringing in Ireland, my matriarchal connections and domestic structure. My present immigrant status and isolation from family with recurring visits to Ireland allows me a reflective distance to scrutinize. Water connects me to my past. It is unifying and transient while my corporal body is less so. Narrative is always a poetic suggestion within my works, the sounds of the sea and movement of wind /water are also recurring elements in my work as are the recycling or personal selection of materials with an archeological sensibility. I describe myself as a contemporary archaeologist as a means to explain the satisfaction of collecting, my valuing of detritus. I love how the sea catalogues with its currents and methodically selects shores to casts its contents upon as diligent as a librarian.

[. . .]

Rian and Anastasia, you received your MFAs from UNO, and Anastasia, you are a New Orleans native and survivor of the storm. To what degree are your associations with water linked with disaster?

AP: I have always been respectful of the reality of water’s destructive potential, but I had only experienced water as a force that provides great pleasure, until I witnessed the catastrophic destruction of the flood following Hurricane Katrina.

RK:To me water is linked to power and thus an overwhelming and suffocating destruction can be one extreme. It also holds mythical, cleansing and immersive experiences for me.

The tension in Melissa’s photographs of being just over or just under are that moment of life and death, in control or out of control. Water is not easily controlled as we know and yet we think we have power over it. Like life we do not hold the reins, we are just lucky we are breathing and experiencing.

The skin of plastic demarking surface tension, below and above in my work speaks about an underworld and strata of geological time. Water is the sculptor of the planet and life giver. That is true power.

Did you all collaborate on curating the exhibition?

MB: We talked a little about ideas for the show, but worked independently until installation. I brought a lot of work with me and being able to run ideas by Rian and Anastasia of how to install the work was invaluable.

RK: [. . .] As a conceptual idea this three person exhibition was conceived as a series of three shows, one in Denver, one New Orleans and the next iteration will be in Minneapolis. This provides us the opportunity to meet and exhibit three times and continue a conversation, building on past dialogue and works. Art making is about growth and this series of collaborations allows us to achieve our personal ends in a communal manner.

Denver, New Orleans and Minneapolis are the three locations for the traveling exhibition. If you could add a fourth, where would it be and why?

AP: I would like for us to show in each of the places that initially inspired us to begin thisconversation about the sea – Skopelos, Greece, Honolulu, Hawaii and Dun Na Mara,Ireland.

MB: Anywhere we can reach a large audience. New York would be ideal.

RK:Rather than a fourth, I see the continuation as three returns to each of the origins, Ireland, Hawaii and Greece. Let’s do that Ladies!

What are your formal (artist) and informal (visual imagery) inspirations?

AP: My main artist inspirations change daily – today, I would have to say Rian Kerrane & Melissa Borman!I’ ve been looking at thrift store 60’ s dresses, ginger leaves in my back yard scorched by the sun, avocados,and fountains.

MB: Of course, I am very inspired by Rian and Anastasia’ s work. Also, I keep going back to Anna Atkin’ s Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. I’ ve always been fascinated with photography’ s ability to blur the boundaries between art and science.As far as informal imagery, I have a collection of old atlases and globes.I like to look at images in old textbooks. I’ m drawn to the aesthetics of didactic tools from the early part of the 20th century.

Do you see this exhibition leading to future collaborations?

MB: I do feel that the three of us have many connecting threads in our work that would be interesting to explore. There is something about working with ateam that ups the ante. I am motivated to not be the “ weak link” . I think itpushes me to think more, work harder, and go the extra mile….