Carved out of Time

Interview by Eva Mayhabal Davis

For Culturework’s winter theme of Aging, we interviewed artist Joey Steigelman. Her work explores aging defiantly, positioning material as embodiment of light and permanence.

Culturework: Joey, thank you so much for taking the time to share more about your work with us! Can you speak to your choice of materials and process for casting and resin?

Joey Steigelman: I’m very interested in plastics and their optical properties. Acrylic resin is an incredible material; the transparency in this piece is as clear as glass. I find the medium to be quite compelling on its own. It holds light well and produces these great reflections of the embodied object inside.

Sculpture depicting an ice cream cone suspended in a prism of clear resin
Single Scoop (Strawberry Ice Cream Cone) 2019, Acrylic resin and cast object (9 x 4 x 4in (23.5 x 10.2 x 10.2cm)

CW: In the work, Single Scoop (Strawberry Ice Cream Cone), there’s a very appealing sensation, the color and familiarity are very comfortable and playful but as you mentioned, the resin captures and hinders the purpose of the ice cream. It’s supposed to melt, it’s supposed to be enjoyed, but when it’s contained, its innocence has been halted in some way… can you expand on where this interest stems from?

JS: I think the idea of time standing still is often associated with resin. It suggests a moment carved out of time, like an insect preserved in amber. I wanted to contrast this static quality with the idea of rapid transformation. With ice cream, we’ve all had the experience of rushing to eat it before it melts — of seeing and feeling its transformation in a very tangible way. I was interested in how the object, the ice cream, could evoke a certain idea of change that would ultimately be disrupted by the resin.

Texturally I also like the contrast between the highly smooth surface of the acrylic resin and the seemingly soft and gritty feel of the ice cream. To me there’s a real tactile quality about the work.

CW: Does this relate to your other work? The neon sculptures? Light as sculpture also has very finite concepts…especially with your work SUNSET, it’s almost contradictory because we have been conditioned to repeat sunsets, to end one day and start another –and that may not be the case for a lightbulb.

JS: I’ve never thought about it that way, but there’s certainly an overlapping theme between these works with regard to the capture of a fleeting moment in time. It’s funny… you mention how the light from a bulb is finite and while of course that’s true I really do associate neon with this idea of permanence. Neon can last decades and so it’s possible for some of my neon pieces to actually outlive me. In thinking about a sunset I was also thinking about the gradual change and light degradation in neon over time. The inspiration for my first Sunset neon came from walking past this bar every day that had an old neon sign. The name of the bar was spelled out in this peachy red-orange color, and if you looked closely you could see that two of the letters were ever so slightly more pink, ever so slightly less bright, than the rest of the sign. And so I started thinking a lot about the fluctuation in color over time.

Circling back to your question then, I think both works are influenced by the concept of time. There’s a push and pull between transience and permanence, aging and stagnating.

Joey Steigelman is an American artist currently based in Berlin, Germany. Steigelman’s work explores perceptual phenomena such as color, light, materiality, and space. The artist employs a range of media to address these themes including painting, neon, plexiglass, and acrylic resin. Steigelman’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently with Christie’s, The Center for Holographic Arts, Cluster Gallery, and Blackbird Gallery. Steigelman was trained in painting at Parsons and Pratt and is a graduate of New York University. Follow her work @joey_.

Eva Mayhabal Davis is a Culturework editor.