A lot has happened in the nearly two years since Lynn Batchelder received the 2016 AJF Artist Award. Since that time, she has been busy with exhibitions, residencies, and growing her career as an artist and educator. With the opening of the 2018 AJF Artist Award application on the horizon (on September 1), I followed up with Lynn about her life post-award and her upcoming role as one of three jurors for the new award cycle.
Adriane Dalton: What has happened in your life and your artistic practice in the year and a half since you received the 2016 AJF artist award?
Lynn Batchelder: Thinking back to last year, it feels like so much happened at once! Just prior to receiving the AJF Award, I took the position of assistant professor in the metal program at SUNY New Paltz, a major shift in my life toward committing to teaching in a more permanent capacity, and to finding roots in a place after having moved around a bit. Then, when I found out that I was receiving the AJF Artist Award in 2016, I was pretty overwhelmed by the support of the field and the guidance of my inimitable mentors (Caroline Gore, Jamie Bennett, Kerianne Quick, and Myra Mimlitsch-Gray) to unwaveringly pursue this path.
Since receiving the award, I’ve been included in a number of exhibitions and completed a few short artist residencies. This included a month-long residency at Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW), in Rosendale, New York, that has broadened the direction of my work through the addition of intaglio printmaking processes. I’ve long wanted to incorporate printing into my practice, recognizing the crossover between tools and techniques used in both print and in metal, so it felt like a seamless extension of my work.
The suite of multilayered engraved prints (Fog Series) I created at WSW led to the development and thinking toward new work for a solo exhibition, Nonlinear, which was presented at the Gallery at Reinstein|Ross (R|R) in NYC this past spring. This exhibition allowed me the space to tie together the sawn steel work, prints, ink drawings, and a new series called A Line in Space, created through experiments in electroforming to create dimensional drawn objects. To be given the opportunity to present these collections simultaneously and to identify the threads between these varying but connected ways of working was pretty significant. I continue to ask questions around this work, and in the middle ground between two and three dimensions, and am motivated to continue to make blurry objects and drawings.
How has the award impacted your career?
Lynn Batchelder: I think that the visibility of the award is one of the biggest rewards, and for that I am really grateful. I’ve received many opportunities to exhibit work and make connections through artist talks, workshops, etc. To put it simply, I haven’t really had any down time! The opportunity to show at R|R came out of this award and it was a major exhibition for me, with notable attention and genuine support from the gallery director, Bella Neyman. Of course financially the AJF Award helped me travel, purchase materials, move my studio, and expand my practice.
In your finalist interview with Bonnie Levine (https://artjewelryforum.org/lynn-batchelder), you stated: “I’ve been taught to be an artist who creates work without expectations of recognition or success.” What does it mean to create without these expectations? How does this play out in your practice?
Lynn Batchelder: First, I was revealing my Midwest upbringing a bit; a certain ingrained modesty comes out when I’m in the spotlight, downplaying attention. But also, I’ve learned over time that if you create work from a place of wanting recognition, it can lack genuineness. If you concern yourself too much about what others will think or about selling the work, there’s a possibility that the result will be compromised in some way. I try to push those concerns aside when I work, and hope that the audience picks up on the sincerity of objects not meant to please. So I also understand that if I work that way, I don’t expect to always get attention, and I feel lucky when I find those works that satisfy both my curiosity and that of the audience.
Describe your creative process. How do you approach your drawing practice, and how do you translate these two-dimensional works into jewelry?
Lynn Batchelder: I consider drawing a way of thinking, reflecting, exploring, and inventing, rather than utilizing it to render or decisively plan objects-to-be. I’ve come to a place where I work more seamlessly between drawing and object, where one doesn’t precede the other. Often what happens in metal can inform or create questions for two-dimensional work as well.
In drawing, I think a lot about rules, repetition, and control. The tiny imperfections of the hand accumulate and give breath to line or surface. This human quality lends back to the body, and this all filters into processes I choose for creating wearable objects.
What’s your studio environment like? What would someone experience as a fly on the wall during your workday?
Lynn Batchelder: My studio is located in my house, so it’s pretty integrated with my life. I’ve always been a creative night owl and, coupled with my teaching schedule, studio workdays are often work nights. My work time can vary drastically, and because I confront different modes of making, things get complicated. Between project/exhibit due dates, I allow myself to be distracted in the studio; I love to follow whims, start something really time-consuming, or spend time drawing. Drawing is often my distraction until I can’t put off the piece anymore. Then I’m making paper models, cutting, measuring, sawing, soldering, making lists, accumulating parts, arranging, rearranging… Much of the final decision-making happens as I go, so there’s a lot of staring at things, holding them up to my body, and pushing bits around until things seem right.
You recently spent a few weeks at Haystack, in Maine, for the Open Studio Residency. What were your hopes for this residency, and what did you gain from the experience?
Lynn Batchelder: Haystack was the perfect opportunity to jump back into the studio after the culmination of my spring semester of teaching. I hoped to continue with some work I started this year utilizing hand engraving for printmaking and potentially objects. This is research that I’m continuing and still have a lot of questions about, conceptually and technically. The Haystack residency allows artists to work across studios, so I applied with the intention of continuing the exploration and crossover between print and metal. Ultimately, I spent most of my time in the metals studio working on engraving copper plates and obsessively sharpening tools. More importantly, I met amazing and diverse artists, reflected on my work, took time for myself, and absorbed the ocean view.
In keeping with discussing the growth and changes of one’s practice, can you talk about the shift from some of your earlier works–created from soft materials such as leather and thread–to the dark, layered drawings and the steel and silver jewelry?
Lynn Batchelder: The earlier works you’re referencing are pieces I made for my BFA degree, which actually feels so distant now! At that time, I was still working out what I wanted to make, and how to make it, questioning wearability and the body. I was really curious about working in alternative materials, but hadn’t yet tackled the issue of imbedded meaning. In graduate school I was confronted with these questions, and the realization that every choice signifies meaning in some way. Color became a big problem for me–and once I came back to working in metal (steel), I found clarity in my work. Distilling my work to black and white ultimately helped connect my process back to the drawing page as well.
With the 2018 AJF Artist Award opening on September 1, what advice do you have for anyone who’s considering applying?
Lynn Batchelder: If you’re considering applying, you definitely should! The best advice I can give is just to be consistent in how you present your body of work, take good photographs, and be clear and sincere in your writing.
What are you looking forward to about your participation as a juror?
Lynn Batchelder: It’s always great to be on the other side, and to learn about the process. I’m really interested to hear the views and considerations of the other jurors who are part of the process, and look forward to meaningful conversation with them. Mostly, I’m looking forward to being surprised by what’s fresh in the field of contemporary jewelry from an international scope. I’m eager to discover new artists and to get a current sense of the direction(s) of the field.
What advice do you have for early career and emerging artists who are striving to cultivate or sustain a creative practice?
Lynn Batchelder: Reject trends. Be present and visible. Be persistent.
What are some notable media you’ve enjoyed lately? Books, films, music, etc.?
Lynn Batchelder: I recently taught a course called “Jewelry + Drawing” at the Penland School of Crafts, so I was reading and sharing bits from Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing, by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern, as well as the beautiful new catalog from Private Confessions curated by Ellen Maurer Zilioli.