Hudson, N.Y. artist Tatiana Klacsmann pulls from multiple materials in order to find a nexus point between soul, art, reality and legend.
Klacsmann’s work is on display at Gallery 105.
Klacsmann is fascinated by gothic imagery, particularly winged creatures, which pop up a lot in her artwork in her quest to take the ancient and transform it into something modern and relevant. Her new show focuses on the chimera, originally a figure in Greek mythology, but as time has past, a more general figure created by combining various other creatures.
Klacsmann looks back to mythological chimeras, as well as figurative ones created by her, but points to the idea that even though they aren’t necessarily real creatures, they do have real stories and places within culture in history, such as the fake mermaid skeletons in the 19th century, particularly the famous Feegee Mermaid displayed by P.T. Barnum.
“A lot of those hoaxes, they take real material, actual, real skeletons, and it’s only the melding that’s a fantasy,” Klacsmann said. “With some of these creatures, like unicorns or sea serpents, the history is real, they have a history within the culture. To say it’s not real is actually not true. It’s between, it’s both real and not real.”
Klacsmann, a former Classics major, points to a passage in a Roman military report as a perfect example of how legend once passed into reality in a casual way. In that text, a military encounter with a sea serpent is presented as fact with the same tone as anything else in the report.
“It’s not a joke, it’s just the report, like rations, were this, and we encountered this and this is what happened,” said Klacsmann. “It makes me wonder. We haven’t seen one and we don’t know, but why do people keep coming back to this? Was there something, some truth somewhere to it? It’s hard to know.”
What’s most important is what the writer of that report thought happened, and what was accepted after he wrote it. That creates an entire history for the supposedly mythological, giving creatures a real world existence even as they are imaginary — existing in two worlds, one of Klacsmann’s biggest creative interests.
“I’ve always been interested in things that are between, so I come from this position where I believe in a soul,” she said. “It’s not a question I’m asking, I just start from there. There is, it’s there, and I want to see how I can prove it. How can I get information about it? I end up looking at things where there’s a rupture, because the fact that one senses a rupture to me indicates that there’s something there.”
Chimeras are the ultimate in-between creatures, and for Klacsmann, they raise many questions about liminal existences and how we define things, as well as the nature of being human.
“When does it stop being two things and become a thing in its own right?” Klacsmann said. “A human can be like this, too. A human is combination of their mother and their father, but they’re their own unique thing. If it functions, if it moves, if its body is these multiple things, when does it stop being a lizard and a person and start being this new creature?”
With her frequent combination of materials for collage elements, Klacsmann’s work becomes are form of art chimera. She will often take industrially-created material, like patterned fabric or neon paint, as well as bits of her own hand-created paper objects, and combine them on a work. Sometimes that results creating actual chimera figures of her own — including one repetition of a parrot’s body with her head on it — that is also the result of multiple back-and-forths with her computer to create a combination analog and digital image.
“I went to the zoo,” said Klacsmann. “I photographed. Took a picture of a parrot. Then I drew a parrot, like 12 times, over and over and over again. Then I took the parrot and scanned it, took the scan and transferred it onto a plate. And I made an etching of the parrot. Then I printed the etching of the parrot. Then I scanned the etching, put it in the computer. Then I used photo editing software to rotate it, to cut pieces and move the heads, and meld the space between them, change the colors, all that stuff. Then I printed them all. Then I drew on top of the print out. Then, of course, I put my head on some of them.”
For Klacsmann, this gives her own work the opportunity to have the same kind of life as a sea serpent in a Roman military report — far removed from the original, it has an existence all on its own. Is what came after possibly more relevant than the first figure that inspired it all? After all, art isn’t the first brush stroke, but the accumulation of brush strokes.
“It’s like this dialogue, back and forth, between me and the computer,” Klacsmann said. “I do something, I give it something, it gives me something, until the end, where I have all these parrots and the question of where is the original, what is the original? Is it the photo or the etching or the drawing?”
“I could print more of these parrots, but they wouldn’t be the same, because they all have drawings on them. And even if I printed them, they wouldn’t be on a giant tree with my head sewn on them. How far does that aura of the original go? That’s something I always come back to. Where is the original? Does it matter?”
The original is an intangible, but the later versions culled from it demonstrate that the does exist somewhere, somehow, much like Klacsmann views the soul. Creativity is function that indirectly demonstrates the soul’s existence.
“I’m taking information, processing it, and making something out of it that wouldn’t exist without some kind of creative force behind it,” said Klacsmann.
The existence of a soul cuts to the chase in the big questions that Klacsmann asks in her artwork, because it touches on who we are creatively, and what differentiates each artist.
“If there isn’t a soul, is there any individuality?” she said. “Or if there is, does it matter? My feeling is that it matters very much. My response to a geometric carpet might be this, your response might be different, and that’s special and it matters. It makes each human life valuable and precious.”