Luce Artist Talk: Five Questions (+2) with Sparkplug Collective

Madeline on February 21, 2017

Each month, the Luce Foundation Center partners with neighboring Flashpoint Gallery to bring local artists to speak about their artwork and how it relates to SAAM's collection. This Sunday, February 26, we welcome Sparkplug Collective, eight local artists from the DC Arts Center, to discuss how collaboration and continued education help local artists thrive. We chatted with Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin and Jerry Truong, two artists within the collective, to discuss how their community fosters creative growth, what they think of the DC arts scene, and how their current exhibition, Selfie: Me, Myself, and Us, draws on long-time themes of self-portraiture also seen within the Luce Center.

Eye Level: How would you describe the visual arts scene here in DC?

Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin: Describing the DC art scene is a complex question, and we would all probably answer it differently. I have lived in the DC metro area for over twenty years and have seen it ebb and flow. Right now, I see local artists pushing the boundaries with materials and content as well as building on established ideas about art. The work in Selfie: Me, Myself, and US exemplifies this as we all started with self-portraiture and developed the idea with different concepts and media. Over the last five years, I have witnessed a surge of energy from artists themselves to create a place for their work. As more traditional galleries have closed, artists are exhibiting in alternative spaces such as Artomatic, Delicious Spectacle, and Pleasant Plains. One thing I think we can all say about the DC art scene is that there are numerous opportunities to see a variety of art from local museums to open studio events and everything in between.

EL: Can you tell us a little bit about where Sparkplug artists gain their inspiration and how the community fosters creative growth?

FAY: Being a diverse collective of people, both in artistic practices and cultural backgrounds, inspires creative growth through the dialogues and experiences we share with one another. We can see the same subject from multiple points of view, allowing each individual to consider things they may have not been able to consider before. We are all looking to develop and grow as artists and as people, and creating a stimulating environment allows a constant flow of inspiration.

EL: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a part of Sparkplug?

FAY: Having the opportunity to learn and connect with one another is the most rewarding aspect of Sparkplug. The past two years have given us room to experiment. Most of us are exploring different media because of our exposure to one another's artistic practices. Being part of this collective allows us to expand our network and become more connected to the DC art scene. We help each other advance in and out of the studio.

EL: Describe Sparkplug's creative process in the collective's Flashpoint exhibition, Selfie: Me, Myself, and Us?

FAY: We met once a month to check-in and talk about what was going on with us—artistically as individuals, but also about what was happening locally, nationally, and globally. We hosted critiques at our studios which helped fuel ideas and inspiration; then went back to our studios to think and create. Each artist's creative process was different, sometimes private and always personal. In my case, it continues to be an ever-changing process depending on the ideas I want to develop.

EL: What motivated you to use the selfie as a starting point for an exhibition?

FAY: We developed the idea of an exhibition about the self/selfie because artists have been engaging in self-reflection for thousands of years. It also speaks to the current cultural obsession with using digital representations to create an identity. This duality spoke to the Sparkplug Collective as an opportunity to individually express the way we encounter social media and representation, and, at the same time, tap into a long history of self-reflection and creation methods.

EL: What are two points you hope a visitor takes away after seeing the exhibition?

Jerry Truong: One of the most satisfying aspects of this exhibition is being able to show the different approaches to the theme, which is that the mundane act of taking a selfie has connections to the long history of self-portraiture. We hope viewers will leave with an appreciation of the varied ways in which portraiture is practiced today and how far some of the artists in the collective could stretch that definition. While the act of taking selfies could easily be dismissed as superficial or pointless, we wanted to show that the things we experience in everyday life are worthy of investigation and artistic inspiration can, ultimately, come from anywhere.

EL: Lastly, why art?

JT: We all came to art in different ways. Some of us have been creating art since we were children; others came to it more recently by way of music, performance, and even journalism! For each of us, art has given us space to ask questions of ourselves and the world we live in. It allows us to explore space, color, time, material, and, of course, ourselves.

Please join us this Sunday, February 26 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Luce Center for Sparkplug Collective's presentation and a short Q & A afterward. More information about the event can be found on our Facebook page.