TIFFANY BOCIEK / SELECTED ARTWORK / BIOGRAPHY / Artist statement/ Interview / PAST EXHIBITIONS
Tiffany Bociek Interview
La Playa Gallery: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us your name, where you live and a little bit about your past?
Tiffany Bociek: Hi! Thank you so much! My name is Tiffany Bociek and I live in San Diego County (Spring Valley at the base of Mt. Helix to be exact). I grew up in El Cajon, graduated high school from there, did a stint in the Visual Arts program at Grossmont Community College before heading off to UCSD to study in their Visual Arts Program. It sounds like I have never been out of San Diego, but that would be a lie. I have traveled quite a bit around the U.S. and Europe and briefly lived in Paris. I have always been artistic and creative though never as focused on a specific art practice as much as I have been recently.
LPG: Can you give us a brief overview of the work you create?
TB: I am an encaustic artist, which means that beeswax is my medium of choice, though my pieces consist of a variety of mediums like found objects, photo transfer, drawings, oil paints, gouache, charcoal, etc. For me, encaustic allows me to indulge in not only my whimsy of imagination but to take advantage of a wide variety of tools and incorporate various mediums to complete my work. Encaustic work for me is the blending together of the conscious and unconscious mind. The inspiration for my work comes from everywhere: the glistening morning dew on a leaf; the earthy scent of damp earth on a hot day; the bright colors of a bathing suit in a shop window; the soft pastels of macaroons all lined up like ornately-colored tin soldiers; or the complicated and mind-bending lectures on theories of black holes, light speed, and time travel. My work is inspired by these conscious observations, but it is about absorbing what inspires me, then the letting go, and free falling within myself, letting my unconscious mind meld together into my waxy dreamland.
LPG: Wow! That almost blew my mind! How and when did you get started?
TB: So I think this might be a two-part answer. The first part is that I have always just been this way. I have always wanted to create, be creative, and to live a creative life. So my creative journey started very young with a focus on drawing and painting, and then I studied drawing and painting throughout my college years.
Encaustic painting is a more recent discovery for me. I have been working in this medium for the past 5 years. For me, discovering encaustic was the catalyst for the next phase of my life. Through encaustic I was able to break down the barriers I had built up, and I found the voice that I knew was inside of me, but I just couldn’t hear it. I rely on painting and drawing in my encaustic work but now have redefined those practices as tools to complete the bigger picture.
LPG: What motivates you to create new work?
TB: Simple answer: because I have to. It may seem like an odd answer, but honestly, if I don’t create, I become cranky and then the desire to “make” escapes and seeps out via other avenues––uncontrolled. Like when I took a break from my studio because I was frustrated and decided I was going to become an expert in nut-free macaroons––I think I made somewhere around 200+ macaroons (still not an expert). Or when I decided that I would become an expert in bread making (I am far from being an expert, but I still like to make it).
A more complex answer to this question is: I am inspired by the encaustic medium; it allows me to be free and think differently, to be gentle and rough, to experiment and to make mistakes, and then deal with those mistakes in a creative and productive way. When I went to college, my focus or artistic practice was realism and figurative work. I found that the more I tried to make something look “real,” the less I wanted to make art because I was putting so much pressure on myself to achieve some “unrealistic” standard. When I discovered encaustic, I quickly discovered that mistakes happen fast if you’re not paying attention, but there is silver lining: there’s always a creative solution. So the medium itself initially drives my new work because of the beautiful balance of precision work and creative chaos.
LPG: Is there a specific series you are currently creating and what is the inspiration behind it?
TB: I don’t really know how to answer this question because in my mind when you say the word “series” I think: “Well there is this series in which I explored blue and I did this thing. Now I am working on this series where I am doing this other thing.” For me, at least right now, my work is an extension of itself where one piece morphs into another, which morphs into another, which is part of the same but different. Maybe, I am chasing a story that has yet to be told. With each piece that I create, I unlock a new creative path, a new element, a new little mystery only the art piece knows the story. When I make work, I like to get lost, and I hope my viewers get lost with me in their own stories and imaginations when they view my work. I hope that they don’t look to me in search of the deep dark truths behind the work because I want to make work where the viewer gets lost, gets curious, makes up stories, or just thinks: “There is something about this...” For me, that is the deeper meaning of my work. It seems silly, but I have this image that keeps going through my head of lying full length in the grass, staring at clouds and abandoning the world you know is real, instead choosing to get lost in the imaginary world of shapes and hidden stories your imagination sees in the clouds. I guess my inspiration is the emotion, the feeling of losing oneself like I lose myself when I work, the ability to let go, and harness your child-like imagination to see dragons in trees or poodles in clouds.
LPG: It’s so important for adults to hold onto or find their inner child. It’s great you are giving them a tool to do just that. What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
TB: What a fun question, but is it difficult. This question brings to mind the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, because then he wants a glass of milk, but if he gets his glass of milk… You get the picture, I hope.
My first instinctual answer to this question is: my hot plates because without them I can’t heat my wax to an exact temp. But then I think, well I now have hot wax, but I need brushes or tools to apply the wax to a substrate. So I now have hot wax and something to apply the wax, but now I need to fuse my wax layers! I then need a heat gun or torch to melt and fuse. But before I do any of that, I need the wax itself! I rely on all these elements equally to create my work. I have other tools that are for mark making as well as scraping and gauging, photos for transferring, gouache for painting; I have stencils, oil pigment sticks, and photos that provide inspiration. To make my work all I need is the original basic elements of encaustic which are simply colored wax, a hotplate to melt the wax, a tool to fuse my wax layers, and of course something to receive the wax like a board or paper.
LPG: Working with beeswax sounds so interesting. Do you have a routine you follow for creating or only work when inspiration hits?
TB: I try to make it a practice to work a little bit each day. I don’t want to rely on the magic of inspiration. I think inspiration is great and a very important part of art making, and I don’t want to discount the role of inspiration in any part of a creative life. I personally believe that making a body of work comes from a spark that needs to be steadily stoked each day to keep it aflame. I mean, I definitely take days off because I am busy, I get burned out, I need to distract myself to be able to push through a mental block, but overall, I believe art making, for me, comes from practice and building; experimentation and failure; and growth that comes from continually fanning the flame of the artistic mind.
LPG: Do you collect anything and does it influence your work?
TB: And now you’ve gone and done it: you ready for a book? I have been a collector of antiques from a very early age. I believe I got my first piece of antique furniture at age 12 or 13. Today, I don’t collect as much as I use to. I don’t have the room or the desire for more objects (well maybe I have room for another vintage dress or two). Over the course of my life, my collection has consisted of furniture, housewares, clothing, and my favorite: antique magazines. My first car was even a 1968 Ford Mustang (which I still drive!).
I have always been fascinated by the “old.” My favorite poem The Music I Heard by Conard Aiken reflects sentiments of the past—a time long gone:
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you beloved,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
I just love this poem because Aiken calls out that these things do not have a memory but could still tell a story: a knife can never sit down by the fireside and say to you, “My gosh, do you remember when Mr. So-and-so tried to use me to cut the worst piece of steak I have ever had to put my blade through! That was brutal.” I love that Conrad Aiken does give allowance to the fact that there IS a story, a history, a something tangible that was held or touched by another person––to me collecting becomes the idea of a possible shared experience with an unknown person––a connection through intimate objects.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hand and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,--
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.
I think I collect antiques not just because they are beautiful or have excellent craftsmanship. The potential stories the objects hold ignite my imagination: who were the people? Who once held the silver fork and knife I now hold? I like to wonder if the person who owned my vintage silver set also liked to host dinner parties. When the table was set, was Amy Vanderbilt’s book on etiquette referenced? Was something from a much-loved and dog-eared Julia Child’s cookbook prepared for dinner? It is the mystery of the story behind the beautiful object rather than the objects themselves. It’s silly, but I can’t help but hold onto that childhood fantasy.
This childish fantasy and collecting of antiques has a strong influence on my work. I love to look through my vintage magazines at the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and think about the artists who made them; did these artists have a story in mind when he or she made them? Sometimes I extract those images and give them new stories in my own artwork, putting them on a new journey, letting them live in a new world filled with new mystery. I also use images from my family photos, pulling them from their original setting and giving them new life.
LPG: That’s quite a poem and makes me want to start collecting vintage silver! What artist or artists have influenced you the most?
TB: Three artists come to mind who have had a great influence on me and on my artwork: Jennifer Cawley, Shazia Sikander and Hilma af Klint. If I were to talk about all three of these artists, it would take too long. What I will say is: take the time to look them up. Their work is phenomenal. I will take the time to talk about one of the artists, the contemporary artist, Jennifer Cawley. I am glad I saw her work because it was the influence of her work that put me on the encaustic path I am now on. She is an artist out of Georgia, but I first saw her work on Newbury Street in Boston, MA. I had never seen an encaustic before seeing her work. I was searching for my own artistic voice. I can’t even say that after I saw Jennifer Cawley’s work that I found my voice. What I found was the seed of something about to begin. It would take 8 years of germination and 5 years of hard work and exploration to fully emerge as something I can call a voice. Ironically, Cawley’s piece of work that sowed the seed was called: Next Move. It was the largest encaustic I have ever seen. The layers were so thick and luxurious. You couldn’t help but want to sink your fingernails into the wax layers. I couldn’t stop staring at it.
LPG: Support for each other is so important. Locally, what artist excites you the most?
TB: You know, I have always loved the work of Pamala Jaeger. I probably saw her work for the first time in 2006 or 2007, most likely at the Limbo Fine Arts Gallery. There was something about her work that resonated with me and to this day her work still has an impact.
San Diego is full so highly-talented artists of all different styles and mediums. I could go on and on about other local artists like Iana Quesnell, Ryan Tannoscoli, Charlene Mosley, Dia Bassett, Melissa Walters, Erica Putis, Tijuana based artist Fio Zenjim, and of course my favorite local artist/sculptor, Neal Bociek (though I might be a bit biased on the last one since he is my husband). There is just so much talent in this city!
LPG: I agree! San Diego is lucky to have such a supportive art scene. Well, thank you for letting us into your creative world. It's been a pleasure and we are really looking forward to featuring your work at La Playa Gallery!
TB: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, and thank you so much for the opportunity to show at your beautiful gallery.