We had the good fortune of connecting with Pippin Frisbie-Calder and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Pippin, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
The moment I started to work directly with scientists my whole artistic practice opened up. All of a sudden my practice as a printmaker wasn’t just about wether I was going to use woodcut or screenprint to make an image, instead it became a conversation with the scientific research about what material could best communicate the research of each microbiologist or ornithologist. I was still using the methodology of process I had learned through printmaking but employed to cast sculptures and make large installations using a much wider range of materials.
Working in collaboration with Dr. Donata Henry and Dr. Jennifer Coulson we created an exhibition about climate change and predicted declines in migratory birds. We needed to engage each person with these issues so together we created hundreds of individually printed birds that viewers could take home with them. The birds were installed on a large wall to create the sense of a dense population but gradually as people entered the gallery and took a bird home the gallery emptied and the species went extinct.
In another collaboration with Dr. Tim McLean and phytoplankton we created printed images with glow-in-the dark ink over sections of the microorganisms. Viewers could use small black-lights to activate the ink and discover which sections of the organisms were the chloroplasts: the area that convert light into energy in a process called photosynthesis.
The research driven nature of each of these projects and others, created far richer outcomes than I would have considered on my own.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Art for me is a tool to engage with others around issues of climate change and species extinction. Printmaking allows me to create multiples of hand-made art, either as screenprint or woodcut. I create art that people can remove from the gallery and take home with them, giving people access to affordable art and a tool to have tough conversations about these big issues in their own spaces. Each project is rooted in collaboration with a scientist and their research as I try to demystify specific scientific outcomes and research through a visual process and then insert these conversations into galleries and public spaces where this science might not otherwise reach.
My experience with a career in art is I needed to be very flexible. For a long time I was juggling several jobs, always jumping on different odd tasks. I tried to work art related jobs as much as possible, working as a t-shirt printer, in a frame shop, as an art teacher for youth and adults and working night and day markets. At one point I was biking with a whole art class from one venue to another. I would set up, teach, then bike to the next venue! To some degree I am still doing this, teaching part time as a printmaking teacher at a University, selling at Jazz Fest, working with clients and my gallery, LeMieux Galleries. I think the best advice I can give is keep at it, try to take on any art related work you can, and become a part of a supportive local arts community.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them to Mamak!!! I traveled around Malaysia and Indonesia for 9 months and when I eat at Mamak I can close my eyes and travel back in time to some of the best memories of my life! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
To the Scientists that changed my career: Dr. Donata Henry, Dr. Tim McLean, Dr. Jordan Karubian, Dr. Jenifer Coulson, Annelise Blanchette, Scott Eustis and to future collaborators. And to the residency program A Studio In The Woods that started the first one, THANK YOU!
Meg Turner, Kristi Knipe, Alex Marks