Graduate Student's Work Explores Language, Technology

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Dawn Kramlich wanted to be more than a number.

She was looking for a personalized experience in a small, intimate program.

That’s one of the reasons she chose to attend Moore for her MFA in Studio Art. She will have her thesis exhibition and graduate from the program this August.

“I like that the college caters to experimentation,” Kramlich said. “The ability to change mediums in order to more clearly fuse a concept with an aesthetic is critical. At other schools you need to jump through hoops to change your MFA degree's focus. Here it is really an open forum for experimentation.”

That was important to Kramlich, whose work is about language, a conversation which, today, inherently deals with technology. She is driven by the notion that the Internet, cell phones and social media change the way our brains process information, as well as our use of memory. She's interested in how computer-mediated communication changes our means and methods of utilizing language on a daily basis. 

“It is my belief that our minds are turning into `palimpsests,’ layers upon layers of fragmented language which can never be fully available for recall because of the dense history of rapidly scanned information,” Kramlich said in her artist’s statement. “I employ repetition, layering, and text-specificity to examine the moments when language fails to do what it claims [to clarify]."

“I make sculptures and installations which activate the viewer and function as liminal spaces. My work questions the contemporary dialogic, and viewers can confront my sculpted text from the vantage point of either taking ownership or responding to it.”

Kramlich experienced an artistic “ah hah” moment while completing her graduate residency in Burren, Ireland. This led to her current body of work.

“Right before I left for Ireland, I faced a very difficult decision. However, it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made for my work,” she said. “I was always a painter but I realized it wasn’t functioning for my concept. It was either: drop the medium or drop the concept, but it was truly the concept that was driving me. So I told myself: you're not allowed to paint in Ireland. By restricting myself, I freed myself up and discovered an aesthetic that really fused with my concept.”

She realized that installation was the way to go, and discovered that black also fostered her conceptual clarity.

“By removing color from my work, I allow the work to function as a mode through which the viewers can project their  unique subjective experiences onto the text,” she said. "After all, language is a shape-shifter."

In February, Kramlich began an internship at InLiquid, a non-profit arts organization in Philadelphia. Through working on their annual Benefit, she re-introduced herself to Lee Stoetzel, director of the West Collection, who had spoken to her class at Moore the year before and was viewing the Benefit even before its preview party.

“I welcomed him, and, lo and behold, a month later I get a call that Lee Stoetzel wanted to interview me for a West Collection administrative position,” she said. “Thank goodness I took the initiative to re-introduce myself to him!”

The West Collection of Contemporary Art, launched in 1996, is publicly housed in Oaks, PA. Over the past 17 years, the Collection has grown to include over 3,000 works from more than 675 artists from around the world. The goal of the West Collection is to meet young artists who are creating challenging and inventive work and to present an experience of this new art to the public. 

Kramlich has been working at the West Collection since April, giving tours and assisting with events. “Working there has caused me to think about minute details that would make a difference strictly in installation after a piece is purchased,” she said. “It opened my eyes to obtain a wider view of the business end of art.”

She now works two days a week at the West Collection and hopes to continue to go  full-time when she graduates. She will also exhibit her work at an upcoming show at Rowan University that features artists whose work deals with language and the dialogic. “It’s an amazing opportunity, and I’m so excited.”

To learn more about Dawn Kramlich visit her website

Published on June 21st, 2013