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Interview with October/November 2006 Art feature: Fritz Kappler

SEMANTIKON: Since your October 2006 feature, you've finished work on the “Mouth Opera” series, you have continued work on “Indica” and you've been busy working on getting a solo show of new work together which you would also like to feature the completed birthday party series, “Zooo”, “Blooom” and an expanded collection of interchangeable heads which were featured including “Frogface” and “Bunny Face”. Share a bit about what’s been going on since your feature.
FRITZ KAPPLER: Several of the pictures featured were quite embryonic at the time they were published on semantikon.The work is much more developed now, has more depth. The pieces are closer to what they want to be - they are starting to walk on their own, if you will. Decisions have been made regarding color, application of paint, format etc. You know, my work sometimes takes a while to become clear to me, between that initial inspirational moment and resolution. I realize now that it takes a while for me to really understand what I think I see in my head. As I work it begins to work itself out and I am often surprised, as in my best work, that there is more there than I thought. The roughs have become paintings.

SEMANTIKON: Your work features characters, and thematic repeated over many media, on the topic of repetition, you have said that at some point, the subject of your works become their own source material?
FRITZ KAPPLER: One idea probably just leads to another. In my case this usually involves certain figures moving from one piece to the next. I guess I like them, they become familiar or they’re handy, whatever. I know them. And, naturally, as each piece I do is a little different from the one before- the format, the context or the overall style of the work will be different - the figures begin to refer to the figures immediately before them which refer to the one before that etc., rather than the original reference. What happens is I start off by relating quite closely to the initial idea with intention as to its meaning and symbolism and gradually, as I work with it, it becomes absorbed into my visual language. What’s funny is I just have no idea this absorbtion is happening as it's happening. I very, very rarely set out to make a “series”. And yet almost every thing I do turns is a series or at least features repetitious figures and imagery. Why do some particular figures endure rather than others? I don’t know. So much of what I do is unconscious. I’m actually thinking about doing some stuff with no repeating figures. I wonder what will happen.

SEMANTIKON: Related to repetition, the sunburst collared figure in the work “Blooom”, discuss where the Blooom figure began and how it continues?
FRITZ KAPPLER: That is a perfect example of what we were just discussing. Visually, the “Bloom Baby” was born sometime back in the last part of the 19th century on the side of some baking product or something. The missus had one of those calendars that had reproductions of weird Victorian graphics and things: advertising, greeting cards, toys, etc. And once I saw these things, of course, I wanted to incorporate that weirdness into my work because they just embodied so much of the stuff I love - anyway, I referred to some of these graphics in “A Magic Day Coloring Book” including the Blooom Baby. Since that time he’s popped up many, many times: on paper, canvas, wood, cardboard, I think even an ice sculpture, I can’t remember. That’s him in “Games For May”, “Mantra”, in blackface for “Blackberries” and a couple others. He’s currently out of the country and isn’t returning my phone calls.

SEMANTIKON: You have discussed how people have approached the works dealing with children, that there is some suspicion of you for using them as a subject matter. No doubt this is an ironic attitude, you being a father of three children, also, minding that renaissance works featured images of a nude baby Jesus on one breast of Mary, featuring, on the other breast, a saint. Can you discuss your experience with this sort of response to your works? Dealing with such attitudes?
FRITZ KAPPLER: I understand where it comes from, but that’s implying that any art form depicting of children is somehow inherently lascivious. It is tricky in this day and age. Maybe I’m missing something, but I really don’t see anything like that when I look at my work. Most of the faces belong to my kids for chrissakes. Of course those attitudes say far more about those people and their hang ups than they do about me. I don’t think they’d say that stuff about a woman artist either, I’m a man and I guess it just comes with the territory. Balthus ruined it for all of us, hur hur.

SEMANTIKON: In our audio introduction, we discussed the creation of the “Mouth Opera”, its basis, in part, in the discussions people had about how you made mouths in your works. In contrast, another series, variations from “A Magic Day Coloring Book ( 1.4MB PDF) ” figures were cut into Lucite en masse, but being brittle, and not responded to, were archived. What can you tell us about the differences between these two series of works, their history, completion, their display?
FRITZ KAPPLER: The second series you’re referring to features The Blooom Figure too, actually and was sort of the grandchild of Blooom itself , a sort of iconographic byproduct that was probably the final manifestation of that particular idea. I managed to complete one lovely image, very slick and pristine, but the others are boxed, unassembled. They could still be completed quite quickly, it’s all there, ready to go... I think at the time I was not getting a lot of love and that idea was filled with so much baggage at that point for me, just moving on to something else seemed sensible. The difference is, the “Mouth Opera” is much closer to that initial idea moment I talked about earlier.

SEMANTIKON: In our audio introduction, we discussed how the works such as those found in “Frogface” and “Bunnyface” are meant to be mixed and matched by the audience. Would you say that this possibility of the work, reflects your sense of how a narrative develops around a work once it leaves your hands, once people can approach it in the public domain, as it moves through the gallery system, is carried into published sources?
FRITZ KAPPLER: Yes. Just putting those images up on Semantikon opened them up to a degree. I think you have to expect people to engage and interact differently to your work that you do. This mixing and matching lets them have a small say in what they interact with. As for the “audience” I have no idea who that really is, I think it’s suicide artistically to worry about.

SEMANTIKON: In our discussions, you've mentioned that the first painting you sold was one of your favorites. Could you discuss that work, how it enters your mind from time to time, and your thoughts on where it is at, who has it?
FRITZ KAPPLER: The piece was called “Death and Transfiguration” and I think we were discussing it in the context of the public square and the concept of ownership of the work once it’s out there. Some pieces you can’t wait to see the backside of, sort of “How can I miss you if you won’t leave?”, the others are a little bit harder to say goodbye to, kind of like relationships I guess. That was an early piece where I thought I’d nailed something, got somewhere. Every artist has a piece like that I think, where you go “Oh, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing”. It really sets the stage for some other important work for me, and someone out there had the good taste to pick up on it. Though honestly, I hadn’t even thought about it for ages. I believe it’s hanging in some diner in the Utah desert.

SEMANTIKON: You’ve recently been considering a move from Central-Ohio, having moved around and lived many places, what have been your experiences with the Midwest arts community, the time and attention paid to the works. Showings, Sales, grants and studio visits?
FRITZ KAPPLER: My experiences in Columbus Ohio, art-wise, have been really good. There are lots of opportunities to show work from what I can tell, and, there are some good people. As an artist, I’d never eat on local sales.

SEMANTIKON: About the evolution of a work; variants of the “Blooom” figures from the “A Magic Day Coloring Book” appeared in a folio, figures of each put together in poses, pieces and parts of there bodies juxtaposed, cut off, and wrong sided. You said of the work, it was like a book for which the instruction manual had been lost. That it was in hindsight, a piece about space, where you end and begin in it. Could you elaborate on this lost instruction manual, the edges of the works as you made then versus how you see them now?
FRITZ KAPPLER: I think content-wise, that instead of the instruction manual being lost, it’s being discovered within the work. The piece is about the process of becoming cognitive of yourself and your environment. As an object that viewers would interact with, it certainly would be helpful to have provided a manual.

SEMANTIKON: We have discussed a physical process with your works, how, the work moves from page to wood, resins, laminates etc. Could you encapsulate the process of creating a work in terms of the physical nature of moving from sketch to tracings and impositions, them cutting wood, gluing, varnishing etc.
FRITZ KAPPLER: The process of the physical construction of my work is so random it would be very hard to describe any process as typical. Usually I think the best works are those where the medium really enhances the imagery. Not everything needs to be made on a rectangular piece of cloth. It might be interesting to document the process more, it could be very revealing.

SEMANTIKON: The work, “Mouth Opera” found in the October 2006 feature was unfinished. You have discussed that using tools like Photoshop, you were able to be satisfied enough to let it go out. As you make preparations for sending works out, you've also talked about the use of new media technologies in delivering your works. What role has media technologies in the creation, presentation, the delivery of your works? What role do you see media technologies playing future wise in your work, and in the arts?
FRITZ KAPPLER: I don’t use technology, other than as another tool. I try not to separate media. Discussing technology is boring as hell to me.


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