Recess Interviews: SOLA Artists

Alex Young and Marissa Bergmann both graduated from Duke in 2011 and are now working together on an upcoming installation titled SOLA that will be presented at the Carrack Modern Art in downtown Durham from March 12-22. Recess’ Anna Koelsch asked them a few questions about their upcoming installation and how they have adjusted to working as young artists post-graduation.

Recess: Can you describe the project you two are collaborating on?

Alex Young: Our project is an expansion upon an installation we created in our Central Campus apartment when we were seniors at Duke. We didn’t really have a plan when we started out, but we knew we would love to move it into a professional space and give it a focus. Our focus this time around is more about how you feel when you are in nature.

Marissa Bergmann: The first piece we did was called Rebirth. We were kind of going for connecting different things—we hung twigs and branches that we collected from random places; we had sculpture and shadow art. We wanted it to be interactive, where people could come for an experience.

AY: The focus of the project this time around is honing in on a smaller part of nature—the way you feel when you are in nature, in a natural environment and when you’re alone and feel really connected to the space around you.

MB: Two themes that are very strong images and experiences for us are trees and stars. We hope that those are kind of universal as well—everyone’s been camping or been in a forest or astonished by stars. It’s the idea of wonder that you can get by exploring everything. I don’t want it to be like a gallery where you just walk in and look around. I want it to be where you walk in, and go, “whoa, something’s going on,” and memories start coming up. To really take people—my hope is that people are so engaged in what is there that they’re not checking their phone.

R: How did you two begin collaborating?

MB: We were acquaintances for the first two years at Duke, and junior year we became roommates on Central through mutual friends. We just began to make things together. We began stringing beads, and made this cool lampshade-looking thing. It’s not like we were trying to make a piece of art; we were just trying to make our ugly apartment beautiful.

AY: How we started working really reflects our first installation. It happened very organically.

R: How did you get your project involved with the Carrack?

MB: The Carrack was interested that we were newly graduated from Duke and doing this art. We told them we were trying to find a space, actually we were actively trying to find a space. It’s going to be great exposure, especially to have our opening reception on Third Friday. We’re really, really lucky.

R: What is it like to pursue the arts after graduation?

MB: We’re not full time artists, but we both have been finding work. We love making beautiful things; ideally we can keep doing that. I will take photographs and charge for them, we do body painting...but it’s definitely a good goal to become a working artist.

AY: I think there’s also a freedom in not having your art be your main source of income.

MB: In making our current installation, we have used Kickstarter because it’s costing a lot to make the installation. We didn’t plan this installation as a money-making thing, and we’re getting really close to funding it through donations. Hopefully the word keeps spreading. Kickstarter says you don’t make any of the money if you don’t raise it all. We’re not thinking of this as a money-making event.

AY: It’s for the joy of creating. We just want to share this feeling we have and we feel other people have as well.


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