How and why do you choose specific animals for your installation?
I choose animals based on what the animals mean and how they're
looked at in different societies. The choice of some animals might be
based on shape, size, color, as well as their poetic resonance in our
culture and other cultures. I might choose animals based on whether
their meaning might be more limited in our culture or transcend western
culture. Some animals are more universally used than others; for
example, the use of foxes is very common in many different human
What is your view of the relationship between humans and other animals
and nature? Are humans unique or a higher order?
My perspective is that humans are a kind of animal and that we've
evolved to be the way we are. The biology and the psychology of our
existence are intertwined so that it's not as if we're completely
biologically determined. I believe we are part of an evolutionary process.
Not necessarily toward a higher order in the Darwinian sense, but just
that we are part of the continuum of animal existence. I don't think
humans are unique, but that we are part of the same kind of
consciousness that exists in other animals. This intuition I have held for
the last fifteen or twenty years is being explored now on the frontiers of
animal consciousness. I think the more we find out about animal
behavior the more we see that their behavior is closer to ours then we
think. For example, in Desmond Morris and his theories on the human
animal and his work called The Human Animal, we can see that the
human being's activities are not unlike activities of other animals. I think
we are very closely related and that we are not superior.
Do you view the animals in your installations as a nuisance or more
positively? To me they are not threatening because I am fond of animals.
Do you intend the viewer to find them threatening or even humorous?
I don't view the animals in the installations as a nuisance. I don't view
them as positively or negatively being there. I look at them as they are
just being there, they're in the space. They are proliferating and there
are more than there should be. Sometimes, because there are so many
of them they might be threatening but I could also see where they could
be humorous. My intent is always double-edged to answer the question
about intent for the viewer. My intent is always to engage the viewer
and whether the viewer finds the work threatening or humorous, I think
that is more about the viewer than it is about the work. I think both
elements are in the work.
INTERPRETING THE INSTALLATIONS:
When I view your work it gives me an eerie almost disturbing feeling.
While this is my gut feeling, I'm quite interested in how you decide upon
the subject matter. For instance, how do you decide upon the settings or
the repeated objects? Is this obsessive? What are your motives?
Here's a person who finds the work eerie and almost disturbing which
I would say doesn't surprise me in the least. I don't see my work as
being just another happy, uplifting kind of statement. How I decide upon
the subject matter is the result of a process of working that relates to
consciously tapping into my unconscious. The subject matter that I'll end
up choosing will often be very, very familiar. Usually, it's directly related
to ordinary experiences that I have of particular spaces. I'm most
attracted to spaces that are archetypal or very common to everyone in
the culture. How I decide upon the settings is based on that. For
example, most of us have experienced an office and it's a kind of space
that's common and typical of our era. I find that very attractive. In
answer to the question, "is it obsessive?" Yes! I think the repetition is
about an obsession and it's also about, in some cases, the experiences
that come because of the repetition. For example, the experience of
sculpting the same thing over again and how that feels from my point of
view as a working artist. I'm interested in an obsession only if it
generates what, for me, would be a productive experience. I do think
there are obsessions that lead to boredom, unhappiness, illness or even
to mental illness. Just as artists can create things out of nothing, we're
also able to create mental illness or unbalance in ourselves. The
process of making the work is at our command as far as our ability to
control our lives and our existence. Obsession, for me, is something that
I use with even itself as obsession. I use obsession with some control
over the obsession so that it doesn't get the better of me. My motives,
essentially, are to create experiences that are extraordinary. I wouldn't
normally have them, if I weren't an artist of this kind. The motives for me
are generally behavioral and experiential. There are many aspects to
this element in the work, but primarily, my motives relate to stretching my
personality, stretching my own behavior and experiencing discomfort,
comfort, extreme comfort, and so on.
Is Hangers about abortion with the two chairs representing the mother
and the unborn child? Why the yellow background?
I didn't see Hangers as being about abortion. I saw Hangers as being
about the idea of collecting, assembling and displaying. The use of the
hangers is as if someone had come upon our culture two hundred or five
hundred years from now and found nothing left but piles of plastic coat
hangers. What would they do with them? The idea being that they
would hold them in different ways, they would look at them and try to
figure out how these things were used in the past, just as we do that
today with archeology. Hangers, to me, is about archeology and human
behavior as it relates to archeology. I see the hangers as being common
elements or residue left behind by a lost culture. The yellow background
is to work with the pink and the blue. The hangers were blue when I
bought them at Woolworth's in New York. The other colors were
chosen to reverberate with the blue of the hangers making the
What thought process do you use when coming up with the ideas for
The thought process I use to come up with my ideas is probably the
same as any other artist. I think it's a combination of conscious control
and creating the conditions and taking as much responsibility as you can
to allow your consciousness and unconsciousness to express itself.
There's a lot of conscious work and control, but the control and
conscious work to arrive at the ideas is to uncover the more mysterious
substratum that's going on underneath everyday life.
Do you begin with a specific idea or do you just make them and then
I begin with a specific idea, but sometimes the idea is just that I like a
particular animal and I want to work with that animal. I usually don't fine
tune the concept ahead of time, although as different choices are made
they are conceptually based so that the poetic meaning of the work
resonates as much as possible. I don't just make the work without
thinking. Some of the time that it takes to do the pieces does allow new
elements of the unconscious to come to the foreground. The choices of
color and things like that I often postpone until the end because those are
strong elements which contribute to the ultimate resonance and feeling
of the work.
How long does it take to make the installations from beginning to finish?
A very quick idea might take two or three weeks. That would be a piece
like "Spirituality in the Flesh" where the use of raw hamburger had to be
researched. Because of all the research, that piece took three to four
weeks to finally do although the final photograph took place in one day.
The installations that take the longest are those that involve the animals
or handmade sculpture. In the case of "Gathering Paradise" that piece
took about nine months.
What are your reasons for choosing particular mediums? For example,
why do you use food? Also, once you have used a certain food for an
installation, would you use it again?
I like to use mediums that are not appropriate or that I feel haven#t been
used before in sculpture. The use of food, for me, has cycled around. I
did work in 1978 using food and it came back to me ten years later
starting with "Spirituality in The Flesh" although a lot of the installations
in-between do have some food in them. Many pieces take place in
kitchens or have tables or there is the ritual of eating involved. There are
many more colors in food materials than in others. Also, a lot of raw
materials have been fairly well explored in sculpture so that would make
me less interested in them. We are animals that create an elaborate ritual
around something that we cannot live without. Once I've used a certain
food for an installation I don't know whether I would use it again or not.
What artists have influenced you? Are there artists today that you
admire and what aspects of their work do you like?
I've been influenced by Claus Oldenberg in his overall approach to art,
his interest in culture and the products of culture. I feel a kinship with
him in his use of humor and also horror although one might not see his
work as being so horrific. I particularly admire the work of Ann Hamilton
in its scale and obsession and ambition and use of materials. I also like
the work of the sculptor, Rona Pondick.
>>> Sydney Walker walker.188 (Sydney Walker)
(Marlin Murdock) <MMurdock> 02/29/96 03:03pm >>>
These are questions for Sandy Skoglund from Ohio State University
undergraduate students who have been interpreting Skoglund's work in
a course writing Art Criticism taught by Linda Himes, a Graduate
Kim Haithcoat: How and why do you choose specific animals for your
Joe Nelson: What is your view of the relationship between humans and
other animals and nature? Are humans unique or a higher order?
Christine Pierson: Do you view the animals in your installations as a
nuisance or more positively? To me they are not threatening because I
am fond of animals. Do you intend the viewer to find them threatening or
INTERPRETING THE INSTALLATIONS:
Jamie Sheets: Sandy, when I view your work, it gives me an eerie
almost disturbing feeling. While this is my gut feeling, I?m quite interested
in how you decide upon the subject matter. For instance, how do you
decide upon the settings or the repeated objects? Is this obsessive?
What are your motives?
Unnamed student: Is ?Hangers? about abortion with the two chairs
representing the mother and the unborn child? Why the yellow
MAKING THE INSTALLATIONS:
Emily Hoag: What thought process do you use when coming up with the
ideas for your installations? Do you begin with a specific idea or do you
just make them and then interpret them?
Stephanie McHalle: How long does it take to make the installations from
beginning to the finish?
Jen Roskaph: What are your reasons for choosing particular mediums?
For example, why do you use food? Also once you have used a certain
food for an installation, would you use it again?
Bridget Lentz: What artists have influenced you? Are there artists today
that you admire and what aspects of their work do you like?