Our most recent visit features artist Eve Ingalls in conversation with Cameron Schiller and Rachel Steinberg at her studio in Hopewell, New Jersey. Ingalls uses large scale sculptures and imagery to question the boundaries, if there are any, between humans and nature. With her work, Ingalls forces her viewer to realize the colossal impact that society has the power to create on our environment, and how we affect the rest of the world.
EI: I am reading a book by Elizabeth Kolbert called the ‘Sixth Extinction’ which is about how the environmental impact of humans has increased to the point that our impact has tipped the planet from the Holocene into a new era which is being called the Anthropocene.
So I was reading this book on a cross country plane trip, and I looked out onto the landscape… and through the reflection in the window, this book was projected in the landscape! So I took this photograph [which appears in the artwork ‘Theivery’].
EI: One way I work, is that if I present some object, maybe quasi realistically, everything needs to have a meaning to me. I am not just representing something, I want it to be very potent in that way.
EI: I reduce reference points to all these large grey areas here and there. There’s no real space that you can fully understand. It has qualities, but it does not have the lens we anticipate.
RS: It almost seems like those qualities fall into more of an intuitive space, rather than a structural space: what we almost imagine to be in that area, rather than what we see. I really like the idea of there being a hole in the landscape. It’s like a memory in that way.
EI: Or a future.
RS: Right, there’s texture to it. You feel the texture of the memory or the future, but you don’t actually see it. To compare this with narrative story telling, or films, I want there to be room for me to put together parts of the storyline.
CS: Especially with the negative space in your work because it’s not filled in all the way, which leaves room for interpretation in the viewer’s imagination. Are the shadows here intentional?
EI: Yes. We have shadows in our head as an idea: we have an idea about what shadows are, we have shadows that we project and take in, there are shadows that are really real… so yes, shadows are a really big part of my work.
CS: That reminds me of this concept of “degrees of separation”. It is about how your self is interpreted by other people, but through that it goes through a series of separations, which might ultimately affect the self’s reputation. For instance, there’s the way you interpret yourself, then there’s how someone perceives that self you’ve just put forward, and then by the time it’s interpreted, its already gone through so many different filters – at that point, what really is your self?
EI: Yes, and every object that we come in contact with, really goes through all those phases too.
RS: So what is it’s “self”?
CS: And how do the shadows in your work interpret that “self”?
EI: For this piece I was playing somewhere between a tree and hands, because of environmental issues. “Hands On” it’s called. … It was based on this tree that was used as a family tree. I thought it was interesting because it did feel like a hand to me.
CS: Why did you choose a hand?
EI: I was trying to think about this tree, and what it felt like to me, and it felt very much like a hand. And I thought, “Oh my god, we’re grabbing trees and we’re not being very good with them.” We’re using them for our own needs nowadays and not respecting the impact we have on them. From that I made the work, ‘A Dire Imposition,’ depicting a group of trees that are surrounded by a frame that is a roadway trapping them in place.
C: Is community a part of your work?
EI: Well certainly how we’re living is a part of what i’m interested in.
RS: I read “Hyperobjects” by Timothy Morton recently. He talks about this idea where humans desire a call back to nature – he uses visuals of a hobbit house (which is what I thought of with your work here), because hobbits dig their houses into the earth. Like Lord of the Rings fetishizes the earth, and fetishizes nature. He talks about nature and how we conceive of it being “over there”, where we’re in culture right now, but really there is no separation. So I think his idea relates to this because humans always want to create our own hobbit house, so we built a door into a tree, like with your piece – but we don’t really belong there.
CS: We built a separate sector for our own society.
RS: And what is the tipping scale between nature, culture, and nurture?
CS: Do the boundaries even exist?
EI: The boundaries come and go all the time. We set up boundaries when we want to, as well as take them away. But there’s also different levels. You can take a chair, for instance, and you can present it in a variety of ways. There’s not one definition for this. What matters is what role it’s playing in a specific circumstance. If I have to get out of a window because there was a fire, I would step on the chair. If i’m sitting here reading a book – it’s like the arms of parents holding a young child. So whatever I happen to be doing, and it’s a certain type of activity, certain things stand out.
I think that’s one of the major elements of art that’s really crucial, is what realm are you talking about for each of the objects and their relationship with the rest of the world.