Sep 19, 2011

PROFILE | Sandy Skoglund


Sandy Skoglund, The Cocktail Party, cibachrome color photograph, 48" X 65" Live models, Furniture, Sculpted figures coated with cheese doodles, floor and wall panels coated with cheese doodles, 1992


Sandy Skoglund has established herself as a sculptor, installation artist, photographer, filmmaker, and conceptualist all wrapped into one extreme idealist. She is well known for her light hearted, yet deeply unsettling artwork involving food, animals, models, and strong use of color.  Skoglund began her career with an interest in photographing food surrounded by brightly colored patterns in the late seventies.  Since then, she has been exhibiting to the world what is real, what is important, and what we should notice.



From the end of the seventies I used the subject of food as a means to create a common language.  After all, everyone eats.  So, my purpose in working with the subject of food was initially to create a bond with the spectator of my work.  As I gazed around at the world of food I realized that human intervention with the appearance of food is a broad cultural phenomenon.  The manipulation of food in terms of shape, color, taste, and so on, has achieved highly unnatural results.

Sandy Skoglund attended Smith College for her undergrad in studio art and art history from 1964-68, and received her M.A. in 1971 and M.F.A. in painting in 1972 from University of Iowa.  Skoglund then moved to New York City and began her career as a conceptual artist which grew throughout the years.  Skoglund has exhibited artwork not only in the United States but in Canada, Europe, and Korea.
Skoglund often remarks on the mindset, culture, and history of America, while also thumbing her nose at conventional art.  She creates an ordinary scene and floods it with radioactive animals, or food used in social situations such as popcorn, wine, or chips. By inventing this other world, Skoglund is creating a series of reactions from the viewer.  These reactions often produce a smile or even a giggle at first glance, but the underlying message tends to become twisted leaving the viewer feeling anxious, self-reflective, even horrified once pulled inside of her tableau.  
An image can simultaneously have political, psychological, sociological, and formal levels of meaning, which may or may not impact the viewer depending on how he or she experiences the world.

Sandy Skoglund, Radioactive Cats, Color Photograph, 25 1/2" X 33", Sculpted plaster cats, 1980 
Skoglund's Radioactive Cats, was made during the cold war as a commentary not only on the effects of nuclear war, but also the general disregard humans have for animal life.  This scene is completely chaotic, yet the models remain unaffected by their surroundings.  The color use is enough to make a spectator feel uneasy.  Everything in the room is a sickly grey to generate a dull and lethargic atmosphere, with the exception of the cats who are all a toxic neon green.  
Sandy Skoglund, Revenge of the Goldfish, color photograph 27 1/2" X 35", individual painted ceramic goldfish, 1981
In an interview with Demetrio Paparoni, Skoglund talks about the meaning most Americans take from Revenge of the Goldfish as opposed to what she feels her piece is about.  

In the photo, the angle of view doesn’t allow you to see if you are dealing with a man or a woman.  I like the idea of someone thinking it is a piece about homosexuality while others think it is about the sexual abuse of children.  Generally Americans tend to see narrative in social-political terms: in front of an image like this they do not think of the fish as the materialization of a child’s fantasy.  For me instead the fish represents another reality working in the same space in which the child exists.

Sandy Skoglund, Fresh Hybrid, color photograph, pipe cleaners, wool fibers, chenille chicks, 2008

In her latest piece, Fresh Hybrid, Skoglund uses pipe cleaners, wool fibers, and chenille chicks to create a soft, intensely colored spring day.  This installation's message is focused on the loss of childhood innocence and imagination.


Sandy Skoglund appeared on a PBS Thirteen special called, "Excerpt from Art Through Time: A Global View - Dreams and Visions"in October last year and is currently working on a piece titled Winter.   


-Emily Lewis

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