Pamela Blotner is an artist and educator who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her Berkeley studio, she creates sculptures and drawings reflecting on humankind’s relationship to nature, animals, science, and calamity. Her early experiences as a sculptor/illustrator for the Houston Zoological Gardens, in Houston, Texas, and her later work with Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center, Art for Conservation and the Leatherback Trust set her course toward and continue to influence her aesthetic and practice. Her sculpture, drawings and installations have been exhibited in Europe, Asia, Africa and throughout the United States.
Early this year, you curated a group show for us Crossing to Safety, how does that compare to prepping for your own solo show?
I love working in my studio and curating exhibitions. Both activities spring from the same well: a love of visual art and the ideas and associations it carries. Visual art connects us with a higher level of existence. Curating, meanwhile, places me in the role of “match-maker” or “orchestra conductor,” allowing me to place diverse artworks in physical proximity so they create new relationships and suggest new meanings.
You seamlessly blend sculpture and 2D works together, such as your piece “Twilight,” what inspires these joinings? When and why did you start incorporating sculptures into your 2D artworks?
I’ve come to realize that this pairing is probably the result of experiences I had during my first year in art school. The art world was still reeling from Abstract Expressionism, the movement created by American painters as a reaction to the horrors of WWII. These artists wanted to change the way viewers saw their canvases – not as windows to look through to images, but rather as objects in and of themselves. Robert Rauschenberg’s seminal work, “Canyon,” in which a stuffed bald eagle emerges from a collage of newspaper strips and paint, was pivotal for me and some of my own “diptych” works pay homage to that piece.
Twilight, Mixed Media , Photo Credit: Pamela Blotner
How do the sculptural elements affect the overall meaning and intent of the artworks?
Sculptural elements, such as wood, metal, wool, or paper, require very different techniques. Having started my career as a painter, a discipline in which I felt I was imposing my will on a surface, I found myself deeply drawn to the materials and processes of sculpture, especially wood. Carving was my introduction to a relationship, a collaboration with the material.
My recent work explores the memory of a place or event, including elements of a memory that I may have romanticized or fantasized. The sculptural elements underneath the 2D works are based on reality, while the drawings above them represent a romanticized recollection of the actual event or place.
This format also reflects my early work as an illustrator/designer for the Houston Zoo. My job was to create interpretative signage for the exterior of animal displays. In the aquarium, for example, a label – bearing information and a painting of the ideal specimen in optimum display- would sit just below a tank of the actual marine creatures, where visitors could watch them as they swam or ate or hid from view.
Thank you Pamela for your time and beautiful thoughts. We look forward to hearing more at the opening reception on September 10th.
Celebrate the opening of Pamela Blotner’s show, Menacing Beauty on Saturday September 10th, 5 – 7pm. More information about the event and more is linked here. Thank you!