Starting Friday, April 18th, Figure One Gallery in Champaign will host the latest collaboration between two incredibly talented and stylistically different artists. Between the Spaces offers a rich selection of works showcasing the artists’ pioneering efforts and innovation in producing realistic portraiture and multi-faceted installation work. Graduating BFA candidates William Blake and Sean Tierney have prepared an extensive show that will explore a complex dialogue within the realms of economics, violence, current politics and ideas of nationality. I had the opportunity to speak with the artists as they were setting up for their show.
Smile Politely: Where does the title Between the States come from?
Sean Tierny: Just expect a lot of paint, a canon and punk music!
SP: How would describe each other’s work?
Tierny (right): Will paints realistic portraiture of displaced Civil War subjects. Through his experience as a reenactor, and his artistic exploration of Civil War reenactments, he brings up questions of American identity. He examines the fascination of war and glorification of violence in the history of the United States. The paintings reflect the individual experience within the context of war, but expose the problems that come with the retellings of history through reenactment.
William Blake: Sean is a multi-media artist who creates installations as well as documentation of his lifestyle. His work questions the systems in place, and he promotes active resistance with a pare-military aesthetic. The work addresses the ever-increasing presence of a police state, the corporate agricultural industrial complex, and the resulting difficulty of off-grid living. He creates objects that reflect on systemic upheaval.
SP: How did you guys decide that you wanted work together?
Blake (left): I started to really be impressed by Sean’s work….I loved the theatricality of it. Knowing his aesthetic and his involvement in Vietnam reenactments, I thought there would be a nice crossover with my Civil War paintings. The paintings started evolving and addressing a broad sense of American politics and its context. My work focused on the past where Sean’s brought the contemporary edge that ends up creating a more multifaceted experience.
SP: How long has this project taken?
Tierny: We started working on Between the States together back in November. But the work we will be exhibiting has the span of about two years.
SP: What kind of discussion do you hope to create with this project? Are there any specific issues you want to be at the forefront of conversation?
Blake: We want the exhibition to be exciting but also leave visitors contemplative. Some of our work uses play to bring up more serious issues. We have flags flying, demonstrations, reenactments, and a punk show. There are also issues dealing with the reality of the human struggle. We hope visitor’s will enjoy their experience and perhaps leave with a new perspective.