Once upon a time: lines, colors, repetitive forms and varied textures existed as public installations in the form of rows and rows of intricate and vivid quilts – telling story after story on a clothesline.

And now: Martha Clippinger.

And this weekend! Martha’s work appears in conjunction with “Perimeters” and the Dumbo Arts Festival.

Last night in DUMBO, Martha and I got to work installing her pairs of brightly colored cardboard shapes on street signs and other forms of public property. At each location, viewers can visually align themselves with the works to fill the negative space of the Brooklyn Bridge archway. Pretty rad (and it’s not just my opinion, it’s also the opinion of the 8 year old kid we ran into while installing).  And I couldn’t help but notice when we met that Martha was wearing a lime-green jacket, a purple t-shirt, and turquoise shorts. In her person and her work, Martha –  Brooklyn based multi-media artist and creator of “Dirty Dirty”, a d.i.y. exhibition space in Ditmas Park – has her way of radiating rainbow beams into the universe.  HOW DOES SHE DO IT??? LET’S FIND OUT.

How did you get involved with Anne Percoco and “Perimeters”? 

Anne and I went to grad school at Mason Gross School of Art (Rutgers University) where we began sharing our interest in site-specificity.  Our practices differ from one another, but we’ve participated in each other’s projects through the past few years.  I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to work with her as a curator.  She’s an incredible organizer and wonderfully supportive!

What inspired this installation piece? 

The Brooklyn Bridge, of course! I ride the Q train over the Manhattan Bridge daily and the arches are a constant fascination.  When my studio was in Dumbo this past year, I encountered the shapes at a closer proximity and felt a more intimate connection to the architecture.  My work revolves around color, so I am always thinking of places where hues could exist, whether within a composition or within the real world.

I’ve also become interested in how we perceive and experience scale and depth.  Unless crossing the bridge, it is difficult for us to comprehend the actual size and scale of the arches, which are 117 feet high.  The cardboard shapes that I will hang are only a few inches high and yet because of our distance away from the arches, those few inches multiply to occupy a space that is 1,404 inches tall!  I hope that viewers will be able to align themselves with the shapes and the bridge in order to experience this play.  When the experience is documented, I am curious to see the flattening of that depth so that the color and the architecture appear to exist on the same plane.

One thing I am interested in is the ways in which you play with limits – of found objects as a medium. Yet you have a background & formal training in sculpture – when did you begin collecting and working with found objects?

When I was 8 I began painting colorful patterns on sticks and twigs and then attaching them to leftover chunks of wood from my father’s workshop.  Around that time I was also painting objects, like a telephone I bought at a neighbor’s yard sale.

And limits of placement, etc: 

I don’t know that I see them as “limits of placement” as much as “opportunities for placement”.  Sometimes I make a work with the intention of it living in a right-angled space or a corner.   Its existence in such a space is particular, but because our world is full of right angles and corners, the painting could live in any number of locations.  For this project however, the logistics of hanging combined with the necessary sightlines did create limitations to the placement of the works.

Are there any differences in your approach when exhibiting a work outdoors in a public arena vs. a kind of gallery installation? 

When participating in an official festival, I must consider certain factors, mainly safety, and follow certain rules like not hanging anything from the trees, but I try to see galleries and streets and houses and office buildings and natural landscapes as all providing places where my work can exist.  I’m interested in the potential interactions of my work with different environments.  In white boxes, the work is mostly in conversation with itself, but when I installed “Let water be the other half” on the side of a lake in Alabama, the pink and orange geometry popped against the trees and grass and the lake reflected the sculpture thereby completing the work.  I liked the dependence on nature for that work, which was very intentional.  Most of the time though, I work in the studio without a clear sense of the paintings’ future environments.

Also, your works are often shown in clusters or groups. How does the relationship between your works of develop?

I generally work through a painting without any pre-conceived notion of its position to my other work, but I find that my experiences and visual language inevitably carry through the painting and thereby develop relationships between works.  I’m always surprised and amused by repetitions of forms, colors, and textures, so my clusters provide a viewing ground for that kind of inter-connectedness.  But for a project like this, I created multiple sites so that the pedestrians might become aware of the project through repeated encounters with the shapes.

Can you tell us a little bit about your project that just happened, the Edgemere Peek neek? 

“The Edgemere Peek-neek” was a walking tour/book release/reading that celebrated the multi-media collaboration with poet Urayoán Noel.  Our devotion to the neighborhood of Edgemere, Queens resulted in an accordion book of “e”-constrained text (inspired by Georges Perec) and scenic postcards, as well as a website.  The E’s took over, so at the “peek-neek” we served cheese, pretzels, Beck’s beer, embedded peppers, seltzer, Keebler elves, etc.  We’ve rented web presence! : http://theedgemereletters.net/  We sell: $23 (shipping incl)  — “The Edgemere Letters.”

What motivated the creation of The Dirty Dirty and what happens there? 

I created The Dirty Dirty as a way to bring artists together in a laid-back atmosphere where artistic exchange and social interactions would take priority over the edited, curated exhibition space. Exhibitions are generally open calls, meaning open to whomever choses to participate. Parameters are given that hopefully inspire the artist to create something new or expose something already made that had not been exhibited or shared with the outside world.  Examples include the most recent show, a visual game of “telephone” titled “Off the Hook!” where works were generated in a chain reaction and 2009’s “Pseudonymous” where works were presented under pseudonyms.  I also like to suggest a relationship to the South (aka The Dirty Dirty), so the outdoor sculpture exhibition “The Yard Show” was inspired by vernacular yard art.  And I typically serve somethin’ Southern: pimento cheese sandwiches, boiled P-nuts, sweet tea—you get the idea.