The Visual Arts Center (VAC) at The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to announce the opening of HAINT, an exhibition by Austin-based artist and curator, Alyssa Taylor Wendt. The opening reception will be held on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019 from 6 – 8 p.m. and the exhibition is on view from Jan. 25 – Feb. 22, 2019.
HAINT is an immersive, three-channel video installation by Austin-based artist and curator, Alyssa Taylor Wendt. Filmed over the course of three years in Croatia, Detroit and Texas, the videos unfold in counterpoint with one another, creating a haunting meditation on how we process history, both as individuals and as a culture. The project draws from motifs in Wendt’s personal cosmology and explores the associative powers of perception, cycles of history and ruination and the spiritual energy that objects, landscape and architecture carry with them. Using Eastern European songs, voiceover, opera, black metal drones and ambient sound, HAINT combines images of post-war structures, monuments and ruins that create a poetic investigation of war, memory and storytelling. In addition to the three-channel video, the exhibition includes sculptural elements and a collection of staged production photographs that intersect with the multifaceted narratives within the video.
What inspires/motivates your work?
First and foremost, I make my work because I have to in order to stay balanced emotionally and mentally. My art is a product of processing my vision in conjunction with the world around me and that conversation is at the core of the need to be an artist. Everything feeds into this process, from current events, other artists’ work, community and a desire to heal to the occult, thrift stores, experimental cinema and our shadow selves. Having a steady studio practice here in Austin has enabled me to not only have a unique voice in the arts, but curate and program shows for so much of the incredible work that my peers are producing. I do consider it a privilege to make art and to live according to my principles and eccentric convictions. There is a joy and incomparable life force that comes from the creative act and challenging oneself to communicate outside of language that propels me to manifest things!
Why these mediums?
I was trained as a photographer and hold an MFA from Bard in Advanced Photography. Nayland Blake, the chair of that program, encouraged me to realize my ideas outside of my expected medium and that changed my whole career. I began to express my concerns in a variety of mediums including video, sculpture, sound and performance, which also enabled me to incorporate additional elements from my earlier life such as playing music, acting in underground films and working as an antique dealer that I used to think had no relevance to my art practice. Recent projects from the last 7 years especially have utilized all these other skills and experiences from my life, especially in my filmmaking that I am grateful for. I learned that all of our experiences, from daily life to trauma and family, are essential parts of our inner spirit that are ingrained in our work, for better or for worse. These tools give me a unique voice that is true to myself and somewhat therapeutic, processing our life with acceptance and thinking towards the future.
How long have you been an artist, and how has your practice changed over time?
I have always been a creative maker, from when I was a little girl. We are all artists of our own design. Raised by a landscape painter and an architect, I was encouraged to think for myself from a young age and that autonomy has pervaded throughout my life. I guess I would say that I have been focused as a professional artist, dedicated to that above all else for about 14 years. Moving to Texas enabled me to become a working artist, a blessing I am so lucky to have. As I mentioned previously, I have expanded into a multidisciplinary practice for the last 11 years and tried to challenge myself with larger projects with a higher production value that incorporated the talents of others. This can be manifested as: A film project, like HAINT that is scheduled to open soon at the Visual Arts Center; A collaborative body of work such as my exhibitions with fellow members Erin Cunningham, Elaine I-Ling Shen or Kate Csillagi at the art collective ICOSA; Or a show that I curate like the Good Mourning Tis of Thee exhibition about death and transformation that I organized with Sean Gaulager of Co-Lab Projects at DEMO Gallery recently.
What are you making now and why?
Right now, I am putting the finishing touches on the exhibition for HAINT opening on January 25th from 6-8 pm at the Visual Arts Center at UT Austin. This three channel video installation has been in the works for 5 years and I am mounting a full exhbition to celebrate its premiere. The film just won the International Istanbul Experimental Film Festival and I’m pretty proud of that and all the amazing folks who helped make this expansive project come to fruition. Aside from this, I am starting a new body of work, some of it collaborative, for a show I have during the Fusebox Festival here in Austin at ICOSA Collective with Kate Csillagi called Ultima Thule that explores use motifs of pageantry, spiritual cartography and sculpture that will dissolve predictable margins of observation. I am also writing a new film project that I will start in the spring and show as a work-in-progress at an exhibition this September that I am curating at Big Medium about inherited memory.
What does the Austin arts community need most as the city continues to grow?
This arts community is the most supportive and vibrant scene I have ever been a part of. We have so many talented, insightful and motivated artists but we are still short on affordable studio/gallery space and collectors. There seems to be a large amount of support, in terms of attendance, grants and enthusiasm, but the market is pretty slim for artists being able to sell their work here. With all the tech jobs and new development and funds coming to town, I think Austin would greatly benefit from an art consulting firm that encourages people to invest in local talent and hang more art on their walls! Or even to sponsor artists or shows, there are many potential opportunities. Somebody please take up this mantle and I will introduce you to a whole town of talent.
ALYSSA TAYLOR WENDT is a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and curator that works in Austin, Texas and Detroit, Michigan. Her recent projects reference themes of ritual, animism, monuments, mysticism, the primordial, architecture, gender and mortality using video, sculpture, staged photographs, sound and performance. The work tends to provoke questions in the viewer with dark and evocative aesthetics and multiple layers of perceived truth. She earned her BA from NYU and her MFA from Bard College. Transplanted from New York City, she has shown in numerous national and international exhibitions and performed at The Museum of Art and Design in New York, envoy gallery, The Fusebox Festival and Deitch Projects and completed residencies in Iceland and Norway. She recently finished her opus multi-channel video work HAINT, which is premiering with a full exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at UT Austin in January 2019. She enjoys darkness, gospel blues and bad jokes.
More of her work can be seen on her website: www.alyssataylorwendt.com, or on social media: