Zemlin Sculpts Her Own Artform at Andover

Instructor in Art Therese Zemlin brought with her a unique perspective on art and philosophy when she came to the Andover campus last year. Primarily a sculptor, Zemlin provides a new and fresh perspective to the Andover art scene. Phillipian: What brought you to PA? T.Z.: I had been teaching at the college level for over ten years and was interested in a new challenge. When I was interviewing for a position at PA, I was very impressed with the facilities, and with everyone I met. Phillipian: Do you like it so far? T.Z.: I do like it here. It’s awfully intense with not much down-time for escaping into the studio. The level of student work and the sense of community are reasons to be here. Phillipian: Do you remember when you knew you wanted to be an artist? T.Z.: I remember writing an essay in the fourth grade on the topic of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I wrote that I wanted to be an artist. In 11th grade, I took courses in weaving, jewelry and ceramics at our local community college. Instead of taking Senior year [of high school], I worked as an apprentice to a production weaver. I received my BFA in sculpture from the University of Illinois. Later I attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where I studied glass-casting and neon. Eventually, I received my MFA in sculpture from the University of Texas, Austin. Phillipian: What experience do you bring from outside of the classroom to your art students? T.Z.: I worked in a paper making studio in Urbana, Illinois. In addition to teaching for the past 12 years, I have also been making art and exhibiting my work on a regular basis at galleries, art centers, and museums. Phillipian: Why did you major in sculpture? T.Z.: I initially became involved in sculpture because when I was registering for classes at the U. of I., it was the only studio class that I could get into. But seriously, my attraction to working three-dimensionally, and working with tools and a variety of materials is completely intuitive and visceral. Phillipian: What is art to you? T.Z.: What a huge question. On the one hand, the making of art is an indulgent escape into my own world. On the other hand, presenting the finished work in the form of an exhibition, or even in the form of a slide talk is something very social. The exhibition exists for the sake of the experience of the audience, which feeds back into the inventory of ideas and images that the artist then takes back to the studio. Phillipian: What do you think an artist’s job is? T.Z.: I think the job of the artist is to shake up the status quo. Phillipian: Who is your favorite artist? T.Z.: My all time favorite artists are Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt. I learned of Eva Hesse in the ’70’s… [Eva] was doing work that was essentially geometric, but using very fluid materials that defied the geometry of her work. Phillipian: Anything else about Eva Hesse? T.Z.: Lucy Lippard wrote a book about her, which I read and reread. This book was especially important because it chronicled the life of a young female artist with whom I could identify. Phillipian: What’s your favorite piece you have completed? T. Z.: I don’t have a favorite piece, but every few years I’ll make something that is a turning point, or a peak on the art graph. It usually happens with a piece that will not behave, a piece that is a struggle all the way to completion. I usually don’t recognize that it’s an especially good piece for a few weeks or even months. When I realize I’ve made something good, then I’m afraid it may be the last good thing I ever produce. Phillipian: What piece/pieces are you working on now? T.Z.: I just finished a series of wall pieces involving light and inkjet transparencies. These pieces are a radical departure from the work I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. I need time to figure out what will happen next. Phillipian: What future plans do you have? T.Z.: Last fall I was invited to attend a conference organized in part by the M.I.T. Media Lab, where I had the opportunity to put programmable interactive sensors in some small test pieces. I’m hoping to pursue this technology in the next series. Phillipian: Finally, do you have a PA art moment? T.Z.: It’s all a PA “art moment.”