How do you situate your work in the context of the current moment?
To situate my work within the context of the current racial, social, environmental, political, and economic injustices, I first have to acknowledge that a shift in how I create or approach art after this moment will be inevitable, necessary, and desirable. As a new media artist, I often create works with new technology as a critique and consideration of the effect that science, technology, and industrialism has upon us, our communities, and the earth. From Un-Inhabited/Lost Worlds, 1996–98, to my recent Autarkeia Series, 2007–2020, in which solar power and hydroelectric power are integrated to operate in a self-sustainable way, my previous artworks have held environmental justice as a guiding principle. Individual self-sustainability could ultimately lead to a more equitable society, but self-sustainability means equal, affordable access to resources and new technology, which is a challenge in the face of existing economic injustices. Resource extraction, like mountaintop removal mining, has been historically detrimental and disproportionally harmful to low-income communities in places like Eastern Kentucky. I have addressed this subject in my works, such as in my series of solar-powered lightboxes, bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, 2007. By integrating emergent green technology within my work, I hope that green technology will become prolific and widely distributed in an equitable manner, such that people could be empowered economically by freeing themselves from dependency on globally harmful extraction of resources like gas, coal, and fracking while preserving the land that could in turn support people through agriculture.
What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?
For two years, I have been working on eight large-scale murals and installations located in three buildings in Louisville. The images for these murals are derived from very low-resolution video stills from Future Fall City, 2009 and, >electron<electon~photon 1&2, 2018–2020, two videos commissioned for the Muhammad Ali International Airport. The video stills were enlarged to 45 times their size in a slow meticulous process where I digitally re-construct and digitally paint the video details. This September I finished and installed the last two murals of the eight, in the new Lodgic workspace on East Market Street.
In my art practice, I work on multiple series of works simultaneously that sometimes extend into differing media and overlap over years. As a direct result of social distancing, I had time to reorganize my art storage where I re-discovered the incredibly prophetic series Un-Inhabited / Lost Worlds, 1996–2003, a multi-channeled video installation featuring projections onto carved out clay vessels, which first premiered in Chicago in 1996. This series, which was inspired by the ruins of past civilizations that eventually created ours, has now inspired new larger scale projections. The most prophetic piece is the very first clay piece in this series, the video Micro/Macro, which I created using electron microscope images of viruses, bacteria, and cells. I was a biology major for two years as an undergraduate and microbiology was my favorite subject. Looking through microscopes at these perfectly symmetrical cells and mirrored DNA affected and influenced my future artworks, especially the Acoustic Landscape series, 2010–present.
How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?
At the beginning, in March, with social distancing, lockdowns, and university remote teaching, my cultivation of community was through Zoom meetings and social media. Social distancing was not difficult for me as it was largely a continuation of what is normal for me, as I live on a farm with a few neighbors and also grew up on a farm with few neighbors, so going out only once or twice a week to meet or see people wasn’t a major shift. In fact, my social life increased at home when my college-age children came home, and then my husband started working remotely. This slowed down my art practice at first, as my studio is in the main space of the home. But I adapted by putting my computer on a rolling cart and moving it around to any quiet place I could find. What I am beginning to really miss lately is seeing artists and artworks in person and catching up with all the artists, curators, collectors, and fans of art at openings.
The community can support artists by buying their artworks, checking in on them if they know them personally, and donating to local groups that help artists economically and fund struggling artists. Anyone can support artists because as an artist, with a very small budget, I have always made it a priority to buy works of art as gifts. Supporting local organizations that give artists opportunities, like Roots 101, 21c Museum Hotel, ELEVATOR Artist Resource, Louisville Community Foundation, LVA, KMAC, Speed Art Museum, Carnegie Center for Art & History in New Albany and so many other organizations in our community that support artists.
What advice and tips can you give to other artists during this time?
Try to work through or connect with what you are feeling, feel it, and let it go where it goes. I have had so many stressful ups and downs and increased anxiety that I try to translate into some positive action either through activism, simply helping someone, or creating new artwork. And make plans—you have to have something to get up in the morning for that you look forward to doing. Take this time to stretch and grow, read, research, and be.
Link to video here.
About the artist:
Valerie Sullivan Fuchs is a conceptually based artist who works with new media, sound, video, and installation to encounter the relationship between nature, industrialization, and each other.
She was raised on a sustainable farm, where she and her family raised most of their food and heated their home with firewood in rural Kentucky. She still lives in rural Kentucky with her two children and husband.
You can follow Valerie on Instagram @valeriesfuchs