Carolina Art Crush: Miranda Pfeiffer

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In 2016, it can be refreshing to experience the work of someone who relies on age-old methods of creating art. You’ll find that respite in the pencil drawings of Charlotte native Miranda Pfeiffer. Now living in Los Angeles, Pfeiffer creates pencil on paper drawings whose high level of detail points to long, meditative hours of markmaking in a studio. Although she lets most drawings stand on their own, she also enjoys animation and gif-making and has recently delved into applying her work to fabric. The images are portraits of mundane objects but they have a slightly dark mood; rocks are pocked with hundreds of tiny dark holes, a hand has six fingers, or a foot is joined by creeping, crawling ants.  Your opportunity to see the work in person comes with her afternoon lecture (1 p.m.) and evening opening (5 -7 p.m.) at CPCC Ross Gallery on Thursday, January 28.

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Miranda Pfeiffer, Drawing of a Crumpled Breughel, 2015. Graphite on Rives BFK, 36 x 36 inches.

HappeningsCLT: Describe yourself in three words.

Miranda Pfeiffer: Secretly antisocial potato.

HCLT: When did you realize you were an artist?

MP: For as long as I can remember–probably since the age of 3 or 4– I’ve called myself an artist. Strangely though, it took me a very long time to realize not being an artist was even an option. When I graduated from art school at 21, I was broke and nervous about my future. That’s when I remember it finally hitting me, my career is a choice. Sometimes it’s a hard choice, but it’s very worth it to spend my life paying attention to life’s oddities. I wouldn’t want to ‘be’ anything else, unless it was an astronaut.

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Miranda Pfeiffer, Facing My Foot, 2015. Graphite on Rives BFK, 36 x 36 inches.

HCLT: Who or what inspires you artistically?

MP: Too too many things to list! Pieter Bruegel the Elder is and always has been a huge influence on me. The drawings of Vija Celmins first showed me what I wished my drawings looked like. In my animations, I often reference films like Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring by Ki-duk Kim.

More directly, I’ve collaborated a ton with curator and artist, Max Guy. Though we mostly work in different mediums, I trust his opinions a lot. I think I’ve been lucky to have such a smart person in my life. Perhaps friendships like his have been even more valuable to me than having art-idols like the above. Max wrote the catalog essay for Rock Line.

HCLT: Tell us about your current body of work.

MP: Rock Line is a series of drawings and animations. They’re laboriously rendered with a very thin mechanical pencil, requiring me to move slowly over the surface of the objects I draw. Though not quite the same as photorealism (I don’t draw from photographs unless I’m drawing the actual paper the photograph is printed on) I try and include as much detail as possible. While working–I always learn something new and unexpected about the objects I’m in communion with. Despite what I usually think something looks like before I begin, the subjects ‘push back,’ so that a foot may surprisingly mirror materials like rock and stone. Similarly, the time I spend drawing is time I tend to diminish my own self-awareness. In today’s world of technological milieu, how often do we carefully look at our surroundings? How often do we read without first assuming a personal bias? The drawings record my own subjectivity, and hopefully describe ambiguity in our physical world.

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Miranda Pfeiffer, Rock Covered by a Shadow, 2015. Graphite on Rives BFK, 24 x 24 inches.

HCLT: What do you think is the most valuable art experience in the Carolinas right now?

MP: When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to attend UNCSA’s arts boarding school in Winston Salem. It’s an incredible resource for the Carolinas. Like me and so many others, UNSCA has and continues to develop the minds of young creatives. In terms of this question, I think the experience isn’t solely what its artists make now, but what its alumni will become. The school forever changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful that North Carolina had such a unique program. It’s incredibly uncommon and I wish for the sake of the rest of the country that it wasn’t. Everyone knows arts-funding can be very tight. What UNCSA does with such young artists and such a tight budget has always amazed me. I strongly suggest visiting the program and taking in a concert, performance, film series or art show.

HCLT: What is your number one art piece/place/event in this area?

MP: The Mint Museum is my favorite art-space in Charlotte. In particular, they have some really beautiful Mesoamerican artifacts. The aesthetic sensibilities of these objects can really surprise a viewer, and they often explain fantastic myths or historical events from that period. My favorite Mayan artifacts often describe the illusive night sky, and sometimes point to other iterations of our world. (The Mayan’s believed that time was cyclical.)

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Miranda Pfeiffer, Wood, 2015. Animated Gif.

HCLT: What book is on your nightstand right now?

MP: The Portable Hannah Arendt Edited by Peter Baehr, and South, The Endurance Expedition by Ernest Shackleton. (See below)

HCLT: Best meal in the Charlotte area?

MP: When I’m in town I always go to Lupie’s and order veggie chili, cornbread and sweet tea.

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Miranda Pfeiffer, Explosion, 2015. Print on heavy linen, dimensions vary.

HCLT: Where can we see your work?

MP: At CPCC’s Ross Gallery! My show, Rock Line, is currently on display with an opening Thursday, January 28th from 5 – 7PM. I promise to not be a secretly antisocial potato! The show includes recent graphite drawings, animations and textile designs. I’ll be giving a talk that same day,January 28th at 1 pm in Tate Hall at CPCC.

HCLT: What is up next?

MP: Currently, I’m working on an animated short that describe’s, Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton’s rescue in 1916. The film is about him returning from a wild and bleak landscape of antarctica and realizing that the civilized world he was longing has mutated into the violent battlegrounds of World War 1. It’s a real departure for me since I’m working in color, trying very hard to depict the almost otherworldly pink skies of Antarctica. [Warning!] This clip is a bit gorey, but I sometimes post little in-progress snippets like this on my Instagram. I hope to have the whole animation completed by June 2016.

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