Artist prepares for ArtStart exhibit
On Nov. 19, ceramic artist Debbie Kupinsky worked busily in the ArtStart gallery, preparing her exhibit, which would go on display the following day.
The white-walled room was a jumble of cardboard boxes and pieces of ceramic, filled with the sound of gently clinking china as Kupinsky carefully assembled her exhibit. Just hours later the room would be a work of art.
As a ceramicist, most of her artwork is fragile, such as the ceramic bells that make up one piece.
“I made hundreds of these, just in case,” Kupinsky said of another piece, ceramic chimes made to reflect the cattails and other plants of wetlands in Alpena, Michigan, where she and her husband completed a residency.
Her inspiration comes in many forms, often quite simple.
“I like to go to the thrift store,” she said. “All of the objects in there, people used to own or maybe even care about and now they’re in there. So I think a lot about how all these things that don’t really have any meaning, we give them meaning. Especially something like these bells, you know, they’re meant to be moving, and make sound, but they really just sit on peoples’ shelves, they don’t really do anything. And I like the idea of taking things that people don’t care about anymore and making it into something else.”
Much of her work is inspired by nature, and often its proximity and interplay with the modern world.
“A lot of the nature preserves… It’s always next to some kind of industrial, like paper mill or factory,” Kupinsky said. “Which I think is really interesting. Or it’s surrounded by the city… It’s just about the intersection of the urban or the new world and the natural world.”
Kupinsky is also interested in exploring memory in her work, as is the case with the wall display she had already set up, featuring replicas of everyday objects and some drawings from her childhood and family.
“It’s about memory, how we use objects to mediate the world, and time and personal history… Thinking about how you have your actual experience, and then when you remember something, it’s going to be different. Even though you think you’re remembering the real thing,” Kupinsky said.
Originally from California, Kupinsky now teaches art at St. Norberts College in De Pere, and is currently working on a residency with the Kohler Arts Center.
Her interactions with students and their work has also influenced her art.
“You transform things through drawing,” Kupinsky said. “Let’s say students draw a still life, of boring things, like bottles and just stuff, but still, through the process of drawing they’re transforming it. They could make a really beautiful drawing of these really boring objects—it’s not necessarily about the objects. I’m just interested in those types of things.”
“Students are very literal… I like to be less literal,” she said. “That’s the thing I like about visual art—people can make their own associations with it… if you really direct the viewer and you’re like ‘you should think this,’ and ‘this is directly related to that,’ I don’t know, where does it leave room for people to put themselves into it?”
Kupinsky was introduced to ArtStart through another artist who had an exhibit with her during the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
“It’s very inspiring that they’ve started an art center,” she said. “It’s just transformative for a lot of people, I think.”
Kupinsky and TL Solien, the other artist whose art will be exhibited over the next few months, will have a reception Dec. 6, where the public will have an opportunity to speak with them about their art.