Devra Freelander

Artist Interview

October 16, 2015
Devra Freelander (born 1990, New York) is an American artist whose work explores the perceptual ramifications of having grown up using digital software as a creative output. Her sculptures exist at the intersection of geology and technology, favoring ultra-saturated fluorescent colors to evoke digital aberrations within the physical realm. She was raised in New Jersey, and is currently obtaining her MFA in Sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design.

How would you describe your art?

Saturated in color and simple in form, seemingly digital aberrations in an otherwise analog landscape. I'm interested in creating sculptures that address the aesthetic implications of having grown up using digital software like Photoshop as a creative output, while maintaining a deep respect for ancient planetary processes.

What inspires you?

I feel most inspired by geologic sublimity; glaciers that white-out your field of vision for as far as you can see, or mountains that dwarf any sense of scaled perception. In the past year I've become especially interested in polar geologic features, and I was fortunate enough to travel to both Antarctica and Iceland to explore these polar desires of mine. Something about the isolation and purity of those landscapes feels especially inspirational to me; they are the last testaments to an undisturbed, pre-human earth, and the difficulty in getting to those locales only enhances their sense of rarity and importance. Of course I'm also massively inspired by digital technology, and could probably say the Adobe Creative Suite is responsible for 80% of my aesthetic decision making process.

Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Acetone, nitrile gloves, and a respirator. I use so much epoxy resin in my work that I probably go through a gallon of acetone a month, and gloves/respirators are absolutely paramount since I want to be using these materials for the foreseeable future.

We often encounter fluorescent colors in some of your work. Can you explain reasons why you chose those colors?

I love using fluorescent colors because of their ability to register as digitally saturated within a physical context. I think there is a great irony there; the luminous qualities of fluorescent color alludes to digital screens, but you can't actually reproduce fluorescence through a computer screen. My sculptures are even more vibrant in real life than on the internet, and yet in real life they almost look as if they are from the internet. I love that polarity; it's a theme that emerges in much of my work.

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Can you tell me about the artist residency in Iceland? How did Iceland inspire you during the residency?

I had the pleasure of spending a month at the Fjuk Arts Centre, which is located in a small whaling town on the Northern coast of Iceland. Northeastern Iceland is a hotbed of geothermal activity, and I must have taken thousands of pictures of sulphur springs and geothermal mud baths. Most inspirational, though, was being around the various glaciers. I made a video piece while there in which I erased the Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland's largest glacier, one pixel at a time in Photoshop. Speaking to the locals who work in tourism around these glaciers, it was incredible to hear about how much the glaciers have changed in recent years. Their topography is constantly melting and shifting, and in a country that relies so heavily on tourism, glacial melt has such a massive cultural significance.

What kinds of books do you read usually?

I love science fiction, and have a special soft spot for geologic sci-fi (duh) like Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars trilogy. I love reading speculative fiction, as it feels productive to be imagining what the next thousand years of our species will look like, especially in light of global climate change and the urgency of addressing that issue.

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