Juliana Sabinson & Ian L. C. Swordy

November 16 - January 15, 2019

Juliana Sabinson and Ian L.C. Swordy have been making art alongside each other, as friends, for a long time. After many years of alternately donning, and casting off, the mantle of “artist”, both have developed a highly personal process of collection and collage rooted in the transformational promise of the daily art practice: as ritual, as meditation, as critical tool for being-in-the-world. And though their work takes very different forms, they ultimately look to the same goal: the alchemical synthesis of art into life, life into art.

Sabinson’s works are artifacts of her practice as a healer and a bodywUrker. Swordy’s sculptural collages grow out of a daily walking meditation first developed on his walk across America.

Leading up to this show, Sabinson, Swordy, and I participated in a series of conversations on this synthesis of art and life. While there is no real conclusion to or roadmap through this thorny subject, one sentiment presented itself as constant: The best part about art is being an artist.

Below is an excerpt from these conversations. The full text will be published in 2019.

—Maren Miller (The Hand)

ICS: My walking meditation and the daily collage — they’re about hope. Thinking abstractly changes your experience of the world. Taking time out of the day for this abstract process opens up possibilities and frees me of the fear that everything is locked in and hopeless.

During the walks, what I choose to pick up — I’m looking at the shapes. Or the colors. Or the flexibility. I think about them musically. Tension and resolution.

JS: I think about my work as dance. My objects are the repercussions of my own body wUrk. They require that I dance for them. I dance and then I can make a move. I cannot have an impulse toward the object without dance impulse. It’s interesting that you’re going into music. I see what you’re talking about. Where’s your free space? Where’s a note? What kind of timbre does it have? And it feels like a song.

ICS: And part if it is just loving the materials themselves. Just making these things everyday. When I’m out in the street I just have a love for the thing. I have a love for the trash.

If I were to make these as paintings, as me, my history in the world and the history of art and I’m making a circle on a square…it’s so heavy. It’s so heavy to make a circle. It’s so serious and eternal! It’s the fucking circle. You know. But then the materials give me permission. I’m allowed to use it because I found it. Why is this circle there? I don’t know its history, but because there was a circle given to it and I found it it gives me permission to have a circle in my work. That’s the joy. I’ll be walking down the street on recycling day and it’s just like: Cardboard. Square. Cardboard. Square. Cardboard rectangle with circle in the middle?! Are you kidding me? This is perfect! I love this thing! You know? YES! Round? Sanding pad? I actually love geometric abstraction and that kind of painting and …oh my god peachy color with blue line? I love. But I can’t just make that. I can’t just go buy paint and make that. But…this is from, like, a weed whacker. New York State weed whacker.

JS: In spiritual communities you’re not supposed to buy your own tools. They’re given to you by an elder or fellow person of the universe. I hold the sacredness of art in that domain. That’s why what you do has always made so much sense to me. It’s like you’re working with the systems of life, not just the systems of objects.

I live in a big room and my whole life is essentially in a circle. There are demarcations but it’s sort of a circular, domino effect. I light a candle, and as soon as the wax has accumulated enough, that’s when it’s time for me to move to the painting. I don’t see myself as separate. Fingernails or hair or skin come off… like a layer of snakeskin. But then somebody keeps it because they think it’s beautiful.

Somebody recently labeled me a somatic mystic. I think that’s the easiest quickest way to sort of describe bodywUrk. There’s a format to it – just like there’s a ritual for me and my day. It’s hard talk about because every session is so different. You’re basically coming in and collaborating on that ritual performance that I do for myself, anyway. My art practice cannot survive without my bodywUrk practice, my heart practice. The only reason I can make objects now is I see them as bod wUrk. My goal for is to empower people in finding their own work. Finding their own relationship with their own soul imprint, materially, whatever that looks like. Whether it’s tattoos on their body, or the clothes they’re wearing, or the language they’re using to describe themselves. The object is kind of arbitrary.