Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Greatness: Susan O'Malley

Susan O'Malley is an artist based in San Jose with a piece in the next show at And/Or Gallery, opening this weekend. She sat down to express some hard-hitting art opinions for this week's Greatness.

Richardson Heights: What do you do all day?

Susan O'Malley: I am the Assistant Curator at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, a mid-sized non-profit organization. Day-to-day I am usually doing things related to our exhibitions and programs: scribbling on post-it notes, making to-do lists, calling and emailing, writing, meeting with artists, reading and looking on the internet.

RH: What is your favorite basic shape and why?

SO'M: A circle of course! Because they are so cute!

RH: So, then, what is it, more or less, that you're trying to do as an artist?

SO'M: It often depends from project-to-project. Generally I hope that the work shifts the weirdness of our everyday lives into something more poetic. Lately, I've really been into making inspirational buttons and posters.

RH: You've taken the idea of "artist in residence" a step further by using your own neighborhood as a canvas, kind of Andy Goldsworthy style. How did you develop this idea?

SO'M: I love that framing things as art gives permission to do things that I may otherwise not do (but really want to). I wanted to do a project with people's front lawns in suburban San Jose but I also didn't want to invade their spaces. Distributing flyers in the neighborhood to announce my residency allowed people to opt-out if they were not interested. It also gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do in their yards. I was really hoping that if neighbors saw something out-of-the-ordinary on their block they would wonder if it was art (whether or not it was something I did).

RH: Could you describe your latest Pep Talk Squad event?

SO'M: Since Christina Amini (my Pep Talk Squad collaborator) and I have not given official pep talks for some time (with the typewriter, jackets, buttons and brochures) we like to think of ourselves as undercover pep-talkers, providing encouragement and pep wherever we happen to be. We both work in office-type situations, a landscape always in need of some pep.

RH: Do you have an actual studio, or are you more of a movable artist?

SO'M: No official studio, I'm movable.

RH: Can you tell us a bit about how you created the piece you've got in the show at And/Or this weekend?

SO'M: Yes! This is a project I did with another Bay Area artist, Alex Clausen, about an eccentric and inspiring bike shop owner named Alexander LaRiviere. LaRiviere has rented a crooked Victorian bike shop in downtown San Jose for the past 30 years and the future of his business and home is uncertain. In spite of all of his obstacles, his belief in the bicycle keeps him going. There will be a short video and images at And/Or about him. We really hope you like it.

O'Malley's and Clausen's video Desire To Fly will be at And/Or Gallery through February 28th. The opening reception for the whole show is this Saturday, January 24th, from 6-9PM. Images courtesy of Susan O'Malley.


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