The Lionheart Five: An Interview with Roxanne Faber Savage

The Lionheart Gallery
Dec 8, 2016 9:25PM

Five questions we ask every artist.

Photo Credit: Donna Callighan

1. Name one of your most defining moments as an artist. 

RFS: When I think of a defining moment in my “art life,” it has to be experiencing Kiki Smith’s exhibition: “A Gathering” at The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. That show profoundly changed the ways I think about my (own) “artist voice.” The exhibition unveiled /revealed a visual awakening in my psyche – and has been a touchstone for ideas to form conceptually and concretely. I now generate art in multiple ways- and credit this moment as a “fork” in the wiley roads of my artistic path.

A Gathering, Kiki Smith

Laws of attraction - A few weeks ago, I was at the Armory at the IPDA print fair with my friend, visual artist Gail Flanery. We happened upon her friend, artist Valerie Hammond with her friend - Kiki Smith. They were finishing lunch. Gail and Valerie knew one another and shared small talk about art and tattoos. As they were leaving the table – I asked Kiki if I could photograph her hands - she agreed. Genius hands straight up. Sometimes the laws of attraction are fleeting but quite remarkable. 

Kiki Smith's Hands, Roxanne Faber Savage

2. Do you collect anything? 

RFS: Collections fascinate me. I have a number of collections. I’m very attracted to multiples of things that are organized, jumbled, in glass cases and store windows. As a child I collected post cards …everybody’s postcards. I still collect postcards from places I visit.

I also collect bags. Most recently I salvaged these 3 black bags (2 vintage-1chic) from a overloaded “bag bin” at a goodwill store in North Adams MA. These will be part of a future painting installation. 

 I also photograph flea market collections, vintage store windows and case displays.

As a teenager I was the recipient of my grandmothers costume jewelry. For years as a child she would send me into her bedroom and I would sit at her boudoir type table with a big mirror with drawers on either side. One day she said,”take it all.” That’s how I acquired the full collection. Allegedly - every time Nana bought a new outfit she bought new jewelry for it. Most of the stuff is costume jewelry, pins and odd necklaces - most are super jeweled up – some broken – no clasp, jewels missing. Nothing expensive valuable or really wearable… I just can’t part with it-its priceless.

Photo Credit: Roxanne Faber Savage

3. If you could choose anyone—and we mean anyone—whom would you pick as a mentor? 

RFS: I love pop art and multiples. It would be Andy. Andy Warhol was a transformer - he would have been an amazing & brilliant individual to have known. Andy Warhol said, “ when you do something exactly wrong, you always turn up something.” It’s that kind of confidence when you intentionally try something – just to see what will happen – (even though doubt takes hold of you) – you do it anyway. That’s the fearless Andy mindset I would have been most attracted to.  

4) What’s the most indispensable item in your studio? 

RFS: Safety goggles are my indispensable item in my studio. I consider myself a “low tech printmaker” because I use “low tech” ways to make prints. One way to create gradations of tone – or an “aquatint greys” is to use carborundum grits. Carborundum grits are metal shavings which come in a range of sizes- from fine to large grits to create printing plates. Once dry –you ink the carborundum plate like an etching. Unfortunately the grits are very fine and can become airborne… 

As such –A few summers ago I was teaching this process and my eye was wicked irritated. I rubbed it and foolishly waited about 3 weeks until finally I landed in the emergency room. I was sent to a fabulous eye doctor who located and removed a piece of carborundum embedded into my upper eyelid. I had scratched my eye pretty significantly. (This has happened multiple times- Plexiglas shards too). My safety goggles are like oversized swim goggles which seal around the eye sockets. I also keep a face mask nearby for airborne particles and vapors. #myeyesareimportant! 

Photo Credit: Roxanne Faber Savage

5) Tell us about one piece of art in this exhibition. You might describe your inspiration, your process, the title, what the work signifies to you… 

RFS: The one piece I’m most excited about in the show is “Tusk Pile”. I’m really proud of that work. When I was doing research on the history of ivory I looked at a lot of source imagery. One image in particular struck me –an etching- displaying piles and piles of stacked and numbered tusks. I wanted to interpret that image into a physical presence. I also wanted it to have a connection to my expertise to as a print artist. With this idea in mind I applied for a spring 2016 artist residency at Mass MoCA, North Adams, Makers Mill. At Makers Mill, I willed myself to be proficient in photo-silkscreen, sewing & stuffing to realize my intention of creating this soft sculpture tusk installation. 

“Tusk Pile” is a statement piece; it reminds the viewer that ivory tusks are still being illegally poached and elephants are being slaughtered into butchered blobs for their teeth: the precious ivory tusks. (…all for what end?)

Tusk Pile, Roxanne Faber Savage

The Lionheart Gallery