Denise Treizman in Conversation with Ashley Popp

Ashley Popp meets with +/- Project Space artist, Denise Treizman to discuss her work in relation to the urban landscape, consumerism and trauma found in everyday life. Treizman’s exhibition Part is No Object is on view at SOHO20 through March 12, 2017.


AP: Your sculptures are comprised of found objects. What is your methodology for choosing or finding pieces?

DT: I don’t search for specific materials. A lot of materials I use are objects I encounter in a very spontaneous way, as part of my daily life. I could be going to meet you for coffee and see something on my way there. I use pieces that allow me to have an open narrative –  like industrial scraps. I avoid things that have a personal association, like a diary or a teddy bear.

I have also gone to Materials for the Arts, a reuse center that provides artists with donated supplies from various companies. At first I thought this place is crazy, it’s like shopping, but now I’m more open to it. I’m open to shopping for materials as long as it starts with something found. For example, if I find two pool noodles on the ground, I may get the idea to get 200 from somewhere else to create a piece.


AP: Found objects can be seen as a product of disorder in an urban environment, and your removal of these objects can be viewed as an attempt to create order. How does your work deal with disorder and order?

DT: I don’t have a set of rules. I think of things on the street as disordered, but also as an organized chaos. I try to mimic that organized chaos in my work.

The arrangement of my work is very precarious. There’s always the potential for something to break, the pieces could pop out. I play with idea of “was this made by me, or found like that?”

AP: That potential reminds me of the line between arousal and anxiety. Living in the city, that’s a line all New Yorkers cross between.


AP: Your work also explores trauma. How does the idea of consequence and responsibility within the context of trauma inform your work?

DT: Trauma causes my pieces to become a metaphor for resilience – how to find a way to get up when you’re shot down in life.

Although, in my work trauma can be as literal as something breaking. I grew up in Chile, where there are a lot of earthquakes, so my pieces would break. When my first ceramic piece broke, I was going to throw it out. But then I asked myself, why am I going to trash this? If I saw these ceramic pieces on the street I would pick them up. So I started reconstructing my own broken pieces with a little humor.

AP: While viewing your work, I asked myself what is the human equivalent of taking parts to
make a unique whole? I immediately related to the objects, comparing their connection with each other to the function of a support group–taking pieces of others’ lives to change the perspective of your own. How do you explore this in your work?

DT: When I take pieces apart they become just parts again. However, when I put them together there’s a synergy. The pieces become something more when they’re together. It could be a metaphor for us – for society, for change, for activism. That’s not exactly a theme in my work, but I’m okay with someone reading my pieces as demonstrating the power of a group.


AP: That was my reading of your work. So is consumerism also a theme in your work?

DT: Yes – I grew up in Chile, where we don’t throw away things on the street. Instead you pass objects to someone in your network. So in comparison, American excess is very visually evident.

Although, when I grew up in Chile my grandparents lived in Miami. I would visit them every year. I’d buy things we couldn’t get in Chile: shiny stickers, neon tape, pom poms, glitter. I’d take them back to Chile, but I wouldn’t use them because I was afraid to run out of them.

Now things have changed, a lot of things we do have now in Chile, and I live in the US; I’m not going to run out of anything!

AP: It seems like you work celebrates having access to these “shiny things.”

DT: It’s funny it is celebrating consumerism in a way, so I’ve become a part of it.

I’m trying to bring awareness to it, not that I’m going to change the world. People are not going to stop, and I’m not going to stop myself. But it’s a comment. For instance – there’s flamingo printed duct tape. But why do I need flamingo tape? Why does flamingo tape even exist? I saw it and now I know it exists, and now I can’t live without it. It became a need for me. In general that’s how people are. We get used to what we have, even if we didn’t have it before.


AP: From what you were saying, it seems we don’t have control in this situation, although we create the demand for goods.

DT: We are in a never ending circle. These goods exist but they’re not needed, but then they become a need and you need them even more. You can’t stop getting them, but you get rid of them because you can’t store them.

It’s a contradiction. Why am I making art using all these things? Why am I buying them? It’s hard to get out of the circle. It’s a theory game. These objects exist and I know they are there, so I’ll use them. If I don’t use them, some other artist will.