A CONVERSATION WITH EDDIE VILLANEUVA ON THE OCCASION OF BESIDES AT GRIN
GRIN- How do you decide on your materials? It seems that they often include domestic objects. Does this come from a personal place, is it the product of observation, or both?
Eddie Villanueva- I choose my materials based on the work’s conceptual needs. It’s very rare that I am ever trying to make an overt statement, or trying to pose a specific question. Rather, I want to put things out there in a self-reflexive kind of way. I am interested in the everyday experiences that tow the line between objectively commonplace and inexplicably mystical. I’ve always done a lot of inward looking, so naturally the work comes from that introspective place. I think about the strange and often irrational experiences that have, for better or for worse, lead me to become the person that I am today.
GRIN- Where do you live? Where do you work? Are these places the product of convenience, calculated choice, or necessity? Do you see yourself in a different place in 5 years?
EV- I currently live in Providence RI and I just moved into a studio in Pawtucket. Because of the somewhat chaotic nature of my studio practice, it is definitely necessary for me to have a place where I can go to work that is removed from my home space. I never seem to know exactly where I’m going to be year to year, but I am always trying to move forward with my work. I am trying to build something substantial with my work, so all of my career decisions are in service to that.
GRIN- Utilizing relatable subject material often amplifies a viewer’s interaction with a work. What level of consideration do you place with this reaction during your process?
EV- To some degree I am always considering the way in which a person will interact with my work. I think about how a particular piece will confront a viewer, how it will unfold in front of them, and how I can direct the visual conversation through anticipating the viewer’s reception of the piece. A lot of the imagery I use has its origin in domestic spaces, so I think that people are immediately enticed by the nostalgia they feel when looking at my work. I’m not bothered by this initial superficial attraction, because slowly it seems to subside, and people become more aware of the unsettling nature of my object choices, juxtapositions, and the often-dark suburban narratives. As I mentioned before, the work is introspective in nature, but since the materials are so approachable, I think that people easily see themselves in the art.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Eddie Villanueva (b.1983, Milwaukee) received his B.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been featured at the SCOPE Art Fair, Miami, and in Global Positioning System at the School of Visual Arts, New York, the North American Graduate Art Survey at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Minneapolis, and the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. He received a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant in 2012, and a Mary L. Nohl Emerging Artist Fellowship in 2013. He has taught at UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Richland. Villanueva is currently teaching at Brown University.
"My work operates within an expanded field of inquiry into socially and culturally sanctioned versions of a hetero-normative masculinity. I explore the formation of my own gender identity by mining my personal history as a collection of events, experiences, thoughts, and lessons that have had a profound formative effect on the development of my sense of self; this embodied and emotionally complex sense of self often stands in sharp contrast with external cultural conventions and expectations of manhood found in the social realm.
I am interested in the ways by which male identity manifests itself both publicly and privately. How gender, and in my case male gender, is performed and how a chasm between the personal experience and the cultural creation and sanctioning of gender identity can lead to a sense of double consciousness or personal rift within one’s sense of self. Subjects addressed in my work include emotional vulnerability, violence, control, sexuality, legacy, social hierarchies, and childhood development.
Early on, I explored these subjects through abstract painting and installation, but more recently my attention has shifted away from creating emotionally charged physical spaces, to examining the literal signifiers of my lived experiences, the objects and media that trigger memories and associations. My media interests have expanded to include sculpture, found objects, performance, audio and video, programming, and new technologies.
Through my work, I am questioning established patriarchal gender hierarchies through the lens of my own fractured and multi-faceted experience of masculinity as embedded within the broader socio-cultural realm. In my self exploration, I present points of reflection for the largely hidden phenomenological reality of the secret lives of men." -Eddie Villanueva (website)