In the weeks leading up to the opening of the group show Irrational Exuberance on April 30, we are interviewing the artists to learn more about them, their work, and how they have been impacted by the recession.
Brooklyn, New York
Johanna Povirk-Znoy lives in Brooklyn, where she makes sculptures and drawings and writes short stories. She uses the cheap and easily over-looked as a starting point for her drawings and sculptures.
Q: Tell us about the work you will exhibit.
A: The work I am exhibiting for the show is a series of wall sculptures built entirely from products from specific dollar stores. The cost of the materials for each piece hovers right around $15, and the selection process is that of a magpie: I go into a store, wander around until an item catches my eye, then wander some more with the item in tow to find other materials that seem to work with it. In the sculptures I attempt to transform the materials, to find the odd or beautiful that exists in the juxtaposition of the reconstructed mundane. To me, each piece seems to have a different personality, and I like that. I’m not using any outside materials beyond glue, bonding materials and a little pencil – I really want the materials to speak for themselves.
My scouting trips for materials have shown me a different side to these dollar stores. Stores which on the surface seem to be all the same actually have distinct characters – they may sell the same plastic funnels, but the shop owners’ personalities are visible in the arrangement and selection of their goods. Sunset Park is a neighborhood that is mostly Latino down around 4th and 5th avenues and predominantly Asian around 7th and 8th. Items change: Catholic votives are replaced by red envelopes and plastic chopstick holders. I didn’t try consciously to pull out these differences in my selections, but they are there nonetheless. The differences are also in the details, like the shop that has a plethora or rotating dead stock from the eighties (fanny packs, girls’ barrettes), the shopkeeper who stocks single badminton birdies next to the balls, the store with poker chips in plastic bags. For me personally the shops became transformed too, a little harder to write off. I plan to return to the shops with an image of its corresponding sculpture for the shop owner. Just a little token of recognition, and also maybe they’ll think me a little less crazy (or more!) for wandering around their shops for extended periods when most people just grab their sponge back and leave.
Q: How are you using your art to interpret the show’s them of irrational exuberance?
A: Sunset Park, the neighborhood in Brooklyn where I live, is full of dollar stores. I have to admit I find myself pulled in by the excess of color and plastic and shiny surfaces on a very visceral level. There is an excitement in seeing things in bulk, but there is a slight nausea associated with this – these are things that are mass produced and cheap, a combination that brings up ideas of shoddy products, of depressing work conditions, of poverty. So there is an heavy side to my excitement surrounding these objects, and by attempting to transform them into something more luxurious and lavish, I am trying to ennunciate what is actually just pure and simple visual desire.