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Tegeder talks about first solo show

By Eunice Lee ’16

May 9, 2013

Last October, the new Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art opened its glass doors to the Hamilton community for the first time.  The Wellin’s inaugural exhibit, called “Affinity Atlas,” featured artists like Vik Muniz and Chris Doyle, who spoke at the museum last month.

This month, the museum will introduce a new exhibit by Dannielle Tegeder.  Tegeder is an abstract painter based in New York City, who is currently an Associate Professor at Lehman College in the City University of New York.

Her exhibit, entitled “Painting in the Extended Fields,” will be her first solo museum exhibition.  It will showcase multiple paintings, drawings, sound and animation projects, poems and sculptures completed over the years, as well as recent pieces created for the Wellin.

A key feature of Tegeder’s installation is a 17-foot high wall drawing that Hamilton and Pratt MWP art students are helping Tegeder put together.  I had the great opportunity of contributing to this drawing.

The first time I went to it, I traced small circles over a sketched line using a stencil.  Another time, I taped around and painted matte medium on a series of blocked out lines that shot up and down a wall.  This was a rather uneasy experience for me, as I was wearing a skirt and standing on a ladder twice my height.  I said that I was not scared of heights, but there is no denying that I had a lot of trouble holding onto the tape with my sweaty hands.

On the whole I contributed very little to the project.  However, the opportunity of working on a project with a team of professional artists was incredibly rewarding.  More than anything, the few days I spent at the museum reignited my love for art and design.

It is not everyday that you can talk to and work with a professional artist, who has shown pieces in numerous museums around the world.  In addition to helping complete the wall drawing, I had the fortune of sitting down with Dannielle Tegeder to talk about her upcoming exhibit and involvement with the Wellin Museum.

Eunice Lee:  How did you get an installation at Wellin?  Were you approached by the museum to do an installation?

Dannielle Tegeder:  The Wellin did approach me.  Tracy Adler, who is the founding director, has curated my work and known my work over the past 10 years.  So when she became the founding member and curator, she offered me [the installation].  It’s significant for me because this is my first solo museum exhibition.  It’s nice to work with someone who has such a background with my work, because it includes so many materials and so many projects.

EL:  What was your inspiration behind the wall drawing?

DT:  My inspiration conceptually, I look at a lot of mechanical plans, architectural plans; I think of these as fictional cities.  So it’s almost like a fictional city urban plan.  My personal inspiration, you know my family are all steamfitters, and what that means is that I grew up with my uncles, father and cousins all doing industrial heating and plumbing in New York City.

So they’d be on a building for 2-3 years working on these extensive systems that move through architecture, and the wonderful thing about that is that all of this was hand-drawn.  So, it’s like an architectural drawing; they’re blueprints, they’re beautiful drawings.  Of course, these are all done on computers, but growing up, I uh, I thought I would be a steamfitter.  That plan changed a bit when I was about thirteen.  I realized that there were not that many girl steamfitters. 

EL:  You could have been the first.

DT:  Yeah, I could have been the first.  Thank God I’m not.  So there’s kind of a personal inspiration, but also I have a very extensive interest in architecture and urban planning and systems.

EL:  From what I saw, there was a lot of green, black and metallics.  Could you tell me about your color choices?

DT:  I originally thought about just doing it in black and white, which is much more plan-like.  When you look out that window, you see green.  So it automatically inserted itself into the palette.  So I decided to start including it.

EL:  Why did you decide to have Hamilton students participate in creating your wall drawing?

DT:  I love having students participate for a number of reasons.  First of all, I’m an educator; I’ve been a professor for ten years.  I’m very involved with my students already, so I like that interaction.  The second thing is that when you’re usually a studio-based artist, you’re alone in your studio.  That’s a very quiet, almost isolating experience.  When you come into a space to do a wall drawing, a lot of things happen.  Because you’re dealing with the whole museum, you’re dealing with the location, the people that live there, the people who work in the museum.

This kind of interaction is something you never have in a studio.  As an artist, you hang your work in a gallery; you’re usually not there (except for your opening).  So you just don’t have this dialogue that happens.  It’s always interesting to me, because you have a dialogue across many different people, like the guards or students here, people that I wouldn’t necessarily be in dialogue with.

EL:  What kind of impact do you think your installation will have on the Hamilton community?  Or, at least, what do you hope to achieve?

DT:  Thinking back to when I was in undergraduate school, I thought that artists were dead before they’re famous, or before they can have a career.  For me, what I would like them to take from it is that they can be an artist if this is their dream; you can be an artist and show and be alive and sustain yourself.  It’s an option for you.

I also think exposing people to different types of artwork is important.  I hope they come with an openness, even if they don’t know a lot about work, to have a different experience on how you look at the world.  I hope that they come with an openness to have a different experience other than a just realistic picture.

I tell this to my students, and I would tell this to the public: wipe your mind clean of everything that you think art is about, and what art can be, before you come.

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