By Deb A.
Danielle Gillespie wrote her first story in kindergarten and believes that it may have involved a party with a polar bear and an octopus. Now studying creative writing and literature at the University of Evanville, she's added short stories such as "What's Measured in Miles and Meters", which appears in the most recent issue of Agave Magazine, to her portfolio of novels, poetry, and a few non-fiction pieces. This week we talk to Danielle about discovering the unfamiliar, getting language right, and what comes next.
AGAVE MAGAZINE: Why did you start writing?
DANIELLE GILLESPIE: My parents read to me and my sister when we were children. I became an avid reader (as did my sister) and writing seemed like a natural progression. As silly as it sounds, I started simply because it seemed fun.
In "What's Measured in Miles and Meters" you bring the reader onto the sprinting track, where you spent six years of your own life. How much of your personal experience finds its way into your writing?
I think a good deal of my life finds expression in my writing—though it tends to be less obvious than in “What’s Measured in Miles and Meters”: aspects of a family member’s personality, a place I’ve visited, a feeling I’ve had. I like to use what’s familiar to me to explore what’s unfamiliar. For “What’s Measured in Miles and Meters” I took the experience of running track and dropped it into a family dynamic that was very different than anything I had ever experienced.
What do you think is important for putting a reader, even for a brief moment, into a character's experience?
For me, it’s language. The right words used in the right combination can be so evocative. When I’m editing my own work, I spend hours cutting lines and rearranging sentences and replacing words in the hope that the finished product will allow the emotionality of the moment to come through effectively.
What would you like to write next?
I think I'd like to try tackling something a little bit larger in scope than the short stories I have been writing. A couple of years ago I wrote a short story that I realized was actually the beginning of a novel after I had completed it. I've been really wanting to tackle it, and I think that's my next move.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading A Game of Thrones [George R.R. Martin] for my Tolkien class and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman [Mary Wollstonecraft]. A bizarre combination, but enjoyable nonetheless.
By Deb A.
"I stick stuff to other stuff and kid myself about the rest," claims collage artist Cory Peeke. But as his work, including A Higher Education: Suits in the latest issue of Agave Magazine shows, there's a lot more to it than that. Cory's wit and insight are readily recognisable in every piece, whether it's examining masculinity, sexuality or education. And for all those who are tempted to take a pair of scissors to their copy of Agave and do their own recontextualisation, you have Cory's blessing to "make it yours."
AGAVE MAGAZINE: What got you started in collage?
CORY PEEKE: I have been doing collage seriously since I lived in San Francisco in the early '90s. I was a painter, though a very mixed-media oriented one, when I was in undergraduate school in Michigan. However, when I moved to San Francisco it was so expensive just to live that art supplies like oil paint became an unaffordable luxury. I still had the need to be a maker so I began collecting ephemera, stuff I’d find on the street or for cheap in junk shops.
The experience was very freeing. I didn’t have any preconceived notions or expectations for the work so it was a way to experiment and learn a way of working without the constraints of history and material limitations I felt as a painter.
Where do you find the material you use in your collages, and what draws you to the bits and pieces you collect?
I find most of my materials in junk shops or antique stores, but I’m not above scavenging stuff off the street. I also dig office supplies so office supply stores are fun to shop. The white spots in many of my pieces are created using correction fluid.
I hoard materials. I collect things wherever I find them. I have drawers, boxes, flat files and tables piled high with old photographs, scraps of paper, transparencies, etc. Part of the fun of collage is digging through the hoard to find just the right item for the piece I’m working on. Collage is like putting together a puzzle without knowing what the final image is supposed to look like. Searching out the correct pieces for that puzzle is a fun little treasure hunt.
I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint what exactly draws me to a particular bit of ephemera. I will say though that I’m often attracted to vintage images and papers, something that seems to have an age to it. They’re remnants of another time that I hope to reinvigorate and get people to notice and value again.
Do you first have an idea and then look for pieces to use, or does the material you come across inspire a particular idea for a collage or series?
I used to work with an idea and then search for the material I needed. I don’t think I hold to a strict conceptual agenda anymore, the work is more organic in its creation. There are certainly particular types of imagery and themes of sexuality, masculinity and education that I’m drawn to so they reappear again and again in my work.
I tend to make the work and then go back and look for the common thread/ideas that holds them together as a series.
Your most recent series "explores the duality that is the transient, disposable nature of our culture through the lens of the book and the status of higher education." How did your position as Professor of Art at Eastern Oregon University inform your work?
I’m sure it is no secret that higher education has gone through some big changes and tough times the last several years. I have very different students today than I did just a decade ago.
One of the things that I’ve noticed is a growing reluctance on the part of students to read. They seem to have an aversion to the printed page or at the very least seem to lack any meaningful appreciation for the written word. Libraries are places they only reluctantly go, they hope to find everything on line and in quick easily digested snippets.
These observations have led directly to my reconsideration of the importance of the book and printed matter. I wouldn’t say my work exactly explores these ideas but the observations and the turmoil of higher education have influenced the making of my most recent bodies of work.
You write for Kolaj, a magazine on contemporary collage, and curate as well--what is the power of collage as an art form, and what artists do you think are particularly adept at wielding that power?
I believe people respond to collage differently than they do other mediums. The materials are drawn directly from the world around us which I feel makes them more approachable, perhaps even democratic. One the one hand I think it can be a negative in that collage is often not taken as seriously as other mediums, but on the other hand I think helps make collage less class-oriented and easier for people from all strata to relate.
Writing for Kolaj and being addicted to social media such as Instagram and Tumblr have introduced me to scores of new (to me anyway) collage artists. A list of folks out there right now working that I admire would include Evan Clayton Horback, Anthony Zinonos, Hollie Chastain, Katrien De Blauwer, Flore Kunst, Ross Carron, Eli Craven and John Hundt to name just a few. I could go on and on. This is a great time for collage, lots of good work is being made right now all around the world.
By Deb A.
... but it's going to be OK. Here are a couple things of beauty that have emerged from recent events.
Whether reacting to the American election results with sadness, joy or fear, New Yorkers are offering each other messages of hope and unity on their commutes.
(via the New York Times)
Leonard Cohen on democracy
Maria Popova at BrainPickings has assembled some insights from Canada's treasured poet, where she also reminds us of David Remnick's beautiful profile of Mr. Cohen in The New Yorker. If you prefer to close your eyes while you reminisce, listen to this.
By Deb A.
Yanuary Navarro appreciates the unique allure of gouache and watercolours, noting that "they don't require much more than a cup of water and a brush. The older I get the more I appreciate simplicity." Yet her beautifully vibrant illustrations are part of a fantastical world where fairy tales, science fiction, and a childhood growing up in the Honduras collide--anything but simple. Agave Magazine is proud to feature Yanuary's A Coyote's Dream in our most recent issue, and to speak to her about being an artist, the power of ideas, and her series of invented short stories, 'The World of Wolli'.
What is 'The World of Wolli', and how did it come into being?
The 'World of Wolli' is the title of a series of visual short stories depicted in no chronological order. I have been building the story one painting at a time over the years. The concept began during my last year in college where I had an independent study class where I had the safe space to explore any subject. The narratives that began to naturally demand a voice were autobiographical, illustrating how my family and I immigrated and endured a dangerous journey through Central America. This is something I never really felt comfortable talking to people about and made me feel ashamed.
Over the years the narratives have expanded to include a network of people around me and their life stories and how they inspire me. I exaggerate people into characters and their details because storytelling is more interesting to me when truths are costumed in metaphors and when people are entertained they pay more attention to what is being said.
Where else do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in other forms of art such as film, literature, music etc. and seeing other artists move forward with their ideas despite social disadvantages and failures. Their courage to share their human experience creatively motivates me to not be so afraid of doing the same.
Your work is influenced by fairy tales and science fiction. What are your favourite stories?
My favorite stories list is always changing and growing. Currently, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and Star Wars by George Lucas are some of my favorite fiction stories because they depict relatable human struggles within a fantastical setting that asks the human mind to leave logic and exercise the abstract concept of imagination. I believe that practising this helps us to become more skilled at empathizing with other people in real life and imagining what joys and sorrows they may be experiencing and therefore have a more appropriate response.
When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
During high school I began to seriously practice my painting. I did not have hopes of becoming an artist or even make a living from it. I did it because being in the flow made the world make sense and brought a sense of inner peace that I could not get anywhere else. I think that the arts have shaped me from a frustrated teen into a peaceful and confident adult.
If you couldn't be an artist, what would you be?
I think I would enjoy being a scientist building machines and gadgets out of my Science Fiction dreams.
To be honest I feel that one cannot just be an artist hiding away from the world in a studio and perhaps that is not the worst fact in the world. Art is the voice of the people, it comes from a place of struggle seeking to be heard and the only way to hear what people's concerns are is to go outside and live life.
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