PLAYGROUND DETROIT is proud to present the work of our debut featured artist Cristin Richard with a solo exhibition at The Playground. Richard’s body of work focuses on “the human condition, the body and identity. Majority of the time, the work is a sort of knee jerk reaction to questions I’m pondering, or experiences I’ve had.”  The sculptures on view, made of “skin” that resembles wax paper in its delicacy, transparency, and sheen, are meticulously formed into dress, shoes, and miniature legs kicking into the sky with layers of tulle-like skirt falling around them.

Completed during her artist residency in Iceland, Richard’s ‘Trifle II,’ and ‘Trifle III,’ previously shown at the ‘Emergency Nothing’ exhibition in NYC. Both performance pieces address over-consumption,  ‘Trifle II’ features a model wearing one of her exquisite dress sculptures with, hovering above, a pod-shaped headpiece out of “skin” is covered in and surrounded by collage cut from vintage cook books.  ‘Trifle III’ is more reminiscent of the couch-potato-position, facing glowing screens playing an original video by Richard.

Photography credit, ee berger.

How long have you lived in Detroit? I was born in the city of Detroit, and lived here until I was about six. Each year after that my family moved around to a different city of Michigan. I returned to Detroit at 17 years old, and have been living and working here ever since.

When did you decide to pursue art full time?

I studied industrial design and fiber design in college. From there, I worked in industry as a Color and Materials Designer. I earned my BFA from the College for Creative Studies School of Art and Design in Detroit. After graduating, I had been running the wick at both ends, working in industry full time and then making sculpture at night. Any off time would be spent on my artistic practice or indulging in the local music scene. It just seemed as though I was living a double life.

In 2011, I was approached by a French film maker, who was spending time in Detroit. She invited me to live and work on an exhibition in Paris that spring. My full time job would not allow me to take that much time off, so I had to finally make the decision to pursue that which excites me most. Life has been much different ever since. I did learn a great deal working in industry, and that priceless experience has fueled my interest in experimental processes and materials.

What are the materials of choice in your work?

I’m most interested in materials from the natural world. For me, these are materials that speak about life. They are precious materials that retain a certain amount of energy and are difficult to control. They also require a great deal of work and dedication, which in turn makes you cherish them even more. I also like to use salvaged goods…..things that have a history, a sense of time. These sorts of things have an immeasurable value. They are not mass produced, and quantities are limited.

What inspires you?

I am very inspired by couture. The craftsmanship melts my heart. From bead-work to handmade lace, the methods and techniques are a preservation of history. The color and material usage is constantly evolving, and the performance on the runway interests me, as well. There are so many elements and concepts at play.

Which artists have influenced you?

Eva Hesse, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeios, Pina Bausch, Vanessa Beecroft….

What about your creative process have you found to be the most successful for you?

It seems as if things happen organically. I started with sculpture, then the sculptures became wearable. After that, things were set into motion with performance. And now I’ve begun to experiment with film. The foundation was laid, carefully studied with each next step, and then it evolved into more complex productions from there. Every move is informed by the previous.

Another thing I find beneficial is that I work on several projects at once. This helps me free my mind and make clearer decisions, instead of getting wound up in one direction. Taking a step away from one thing, and returning to it later manages to hit the reset button for me.

Can you pick one piece of work that you would consider your favorite?

In Paris, I created an old telephone silhouette, titled ‘Life Line’. I really enjoyed mummifying this object with skin, giving it human-like qualities. This process consisted of building up the layers of skin and resin, and then finally releasing the phone, leaving just the shell as the end product. The phone’s cord twisted and turned during the cure, transforming it into an umbilical cord. These unpredictable things happen when using organic materials. I try so hard to control them, but then they fight back and magic happens.

September 2012. PLAYGROUND DETROIT presented Richard’s The American Dream.” The installation of her large teepee-like structure, a one-story skirt with a bodice atop, was the centerpiece for dancing ballerinas adorned in Richard’s couture sculptures.

What do you love about Detroit?I love the old, the history, the remains of a life once lived. I like the colors of decay, and the natural growth that takes over the abandoned façades. I’m all about historical architecture. I’m also an observer who’s into watching shady things happen in shady places. I like to make up my own stories of what’s going on here, and what happened there. Churches, motels, cemeteries….these places have a heaviness I’m drawn to.

What are inherent challenges that an artist living and working in Detroit faces?

I think its a huge challenge to be an artist in general, not just within the city of Detroit. One must be a self motivator and jack of all trades. I do a decent amount of traveling, and What I have come across is a lack of understanding and appreciation for the arts in Michigan, compared to some of the other places I’ve worked in.

Another delicate question of the artist is the usage of online social media platforms. In one sense it’s beneficial to share what you are working on. It opens up other opportunities, and allows for a constant engagement with the audience. However, it also makes the artist vulnerable in the sense that others can take the ideas as their own. With the constant stream of the image, people absorb and take it for their own, sometimes on a subconscious level. Ownership is lost, and this is a huge discredit to the work of the artist, photographer or musician. Being inspired is a beautiful thing, but it should be mindful. What scares me is that society seems to be on auto pilot, regurgitating whatever it is they come across online.

Describe what you imagine Detroit to be in 10 years.

It’s going to be unrecognizable. It already is in my eyes.