Andrew Steiger | Studio Visit
When we first met with Andrew, entering his home studio space was like walking into a dream-like narrative. He was completing an immersive installation at the time, and elements from the piece seemed to find their physical presence in the room. Water bouys and rope, sacred dreamcatchers and a fishing hat. Immediately, you have entered his world.
And that's what these works are: they're expressive, and they tell his narrative. You get lost in them the longer you sit and stare, absorbing their rich content.
Read our interview with him below, and be sure to spend some time with each piece on his page, reading his detailed descriptions.
Your work has so many layers and narratives going on. Describe your artwork in 3 words.
Childhood. Territory. Pack hunting.
Tell us a little bit about this series on Tappan?
This series has a little bit of everything in it. A fun experiment where sports + native cultures + consumer behavior fight, play, win and lose.
Where do you source your materials?
Blick, the beach, or an abandoned military base.
Each piece tells such a unique story. How do you begin? Do you have a narrative in mind, or does the story and composition unfold as you begin working?
Sometimes there is a narrative. Sometimes I just start making marks with my pen, then things start to pull at me. Sometimes there's a color or a shape that just kicks things off and from there- it's sort of a "choose your own adventure" story. There are a million possible outcomes - the thing I've found most important is being happy with the journey.
Last gallery show you went to?
Michael Alvarez @ MaRS.
Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your practice? If so, tell us a bit about that, and what elements in particular steered you in certain directions.
I grew up in an area where there were lots of fields and forests. (And a couple low end housing projects.) Cars were sometimes left in the parking lot of this beautiful old winery, and blackberry bushes would take them over. There are a lot of indian reservations that surround where I grew up - and those areas were always sort of "off limits.."
My family camped a lot, and I spent much time focusing on survival training and doing my Sam Gribley thing in the woods. Lots of rivers, lots of fish. Lots and lots of fish.
Place and time is clearly evident through your work. Talk about that.
I like to think about what people saw when this land was "uninhabited." Sort of that Avatar / Pandora idea where everything is new. I'm very drawn to history because the version I was taught in school left out a lot of stuff.
I like peeling back layers on things that happened that weren't in my text books. I often think about this quote that says "winners decide how history is written" - absolutely terrifying.
Best gift you’ve ever received?
The family I have. The love and support that comes from it - the lessons that continue to come from it, even when it doesn't go the way you think it should.
What is your favorite quote?
"Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish - he'll eat for a lifetime."
What country do you wish to visit?
Tell us about where your community now, is there a strong community of artists there?
I live in Koreatown, I am not sure how strong the community of artists is, but the family vibe is relatively comforting. There is a fun (to watch) turf war (local MS gangs).
What makes you nervous?
What makes you laugh no matter what?
Chris Allison when he makes his noises like the Ho-Hum, and the betty jlgoop - that lives there. Swallows us whole.
What's one accomplishment you're most proud of?
Finding my other half.
What's the bravest thing you've ever done?
Recognize and put all faith in the creator.
What is one artist living or dead you feel a great connection to? Someone whose
work has inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?
The creator of the universe, is quite the artist -has a lot of talent - paid close attention to detail. He/She allows things to run their course, allows moss to be the color it wants to after a rain. Gives me the glacial blues that comes off of mountains and into sacred rivers. Not getting caught up in the minutiae and letting my best efforts turn up what they will. Huge.
What’s the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a piece?
If its a major piece I'll do a smudging around it before I start. I've chewed on a couple pieces.
What work took you the longest to complete?
Last summer, I worked for 3.5 months (lived in a trailer) on 3 pieces for a show at the MoNa about how climate change effects salmon - that took a lot out of me, at some points at late late hours I thought for sure I would never be normal again. That might have also been the chocolate.
Tell us about some of your favorite artists.
Who ever invented Real-Tree camouflage. Jim Morrison. Brian Jungen - he's a native sculpture from B.C. Greg Colfax is a carver from Neah Bay, Raf Simons, Thom Yorke, Ralph Steadman, Hayao Miyazaki, anyone who drew or painted scenes of battles. People who build bridges.
What’s one habit you wish you could break?
Popping my hip when I stand, I went to a chiropractor recently with complaints about lower back pain all he relates it to - posture, man.
Who was your favorite teacher in school?
Mike O'Neil, my history and social studies teacher in 7th grade. He would stand in the hallway between classes and you just wanted to shake his hand. It made you feel like a man. I helped him build his log cabin home, he is a rugged, saddle legged - wild eyed cowboy.
What's one thing you still have from your childhood?
Wilderness survival books.
What's one thing you've always wanted to try but you've been too scared to do?
Maybe something involving an orca whale, the dark, and me in the water.
What else are you working on right now?
I'm working on a project for the board of Tourism for British Columbia (Canada). I'm thinking about moving there if the Donald wins the election. (laughs!) No but seriously, I recently spent several weeks in B.C. got hooked up with all these insane trips with Grizzly Bears, diving with salmon, traditional knowledge from Joe Martin (canoe carver) lots of bear watching and time with eagles - so I'm working on a series of drawings to get US citizens to visit B.C. #exploreBC
When do you make your best work?
When I don't second guess myself.
Regarding your method of making, is it a case of the material or method dictating the idea of the other way around?
The idea always leads.
Is art making therapeutic for you?
If I'm doing it right - yes. But it isn't always fun you know? Sometimes you make ugly shit. Sometimes you hate what you make and you flog yourself. haha! But when I truly truly get lost in a piece - yes, or when I find that hook that allows me to move to the next level - YES.
What motivates you?
A healthy planet. The power of nature. My parents. Russel Wilson (QB for the Seattle Seahawks).
What’s your studio philosophy?
Get it out, don't apologize.
How many hours do you try and work in the studio per week?
I can't regulate like that - sometimes there are dry spells - other times it's all I do.
Silence or sound while creating? If sound, what?
Well right now there is a 10 hour nature track playing - depends on the mood. Native flutes. Elk skin drums. Ocean sounds. Animal Collective if i'm feeling wild.
Any advice to aspiring artists?
Don't think about what other people are going think. You gotta find what makes you churn inside. The thing that takes your breathe away and makes you feel on the edge of being alive. The opinions of other people don't matter. They really don't. Just do what makes you feel good. and do it a lot. TAKE BREAKS. It's okay to find others who have made stuff that you like - it's important to think about why you gravitate towards that work - specific subject matter? Messy? Super technical? Reminds you of your childhood? Get personal as fuck. Do this for you. Only you. You never know who's watching.
I want to collaborate with Raf Simons.