Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lynn Speaker - Drawing with Gunpowder

Lynn Speaker

Grain Belt Bottling House
Studio 101
79 13th Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Lynn Speaker is a Minneapolis-based artist who received her Master of Fine Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is a recipient of a 2007 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant and is Coordinator of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota Mentor Program.

I assume that one of the first things people notice about your work is that you use gunpowder in the process. How did you get started with that technique?

As a drawer I have always been fascinated by the mark making process. I have experimented with many conventional and unconventional drawing media. For example, I have gathered clay pigments from locations ranging from my yard to spots across Minnesota up to the Canadian border and then processed them into drawing materials.

My work with gunpowder stems from experiments with other fire-based materials, burning bark, matches, candles and fireworks. From there I began drawing with gunpowder and stumbled across the process I currently use to create images.
What precautions do you need to take when making your art? Do you need any special insurance to work in your studio, for instance?

The most important thing I have learned is to take a step back, I almost melted my shoes the first time I ignited the gunpowder. Beyond that I always have protective materials and a fire extinguisher. I work outdoors as much as possible so no need to worry my fellow building tenants.

Do you work in any of the more traditional mediums?

There is nothing I love more than the tactile quality of putting charcoal to paper. I think that is where my interest in burning materials first developed. As a matter of fact I have just acquired some wood from a blow down area along the North Shore, which I plan to process into charcoal.

What are you currently working? How is this different from past projects?

I am currently working with burning gunpowder on paper instead of a hard substrate. I’m interested in papers and other fragile materials that can withstand the burn process and how those materials can be layered together. Also I am focusing my imagery to specific locations as a way of marking place and time. This is also related to the processing of the North Shore wood charcoal as I mentioned earlier.

My current work is a direct outcome of my past work; one body of work does not stand in contrast to another. A thread is pulled forward even if the differences seem more apparent than the similarities.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

One piece leads to the next and so on; all the rest is unimportant. Just focus on the daily practice of making work.

What role does your educational background play in your current artistic endeavors?

My educational background has some direct and indirect influences on my work. The primary influence would be the select group of strong artists/teachers that I have had the privilege to work with.

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?

My studio lacks a sofa, computer or anything else that can distract me when I am working. It is a functional, fairly orderly space that gets progressively messier as I develop a piece. I like to clear my mind by cleaning the space before I begin a series and just let it fall into organized chaos as the work develops.

I have a variety of objects in my studio that are important to me: a raven’s skull, assorted bones and enough rocks to restock the North Shore. Stones from all over the world, they are markers of place and time and that is something I try to incorporate into my work.

Which Minnesota artists do you enjoy?

Jim Proctor, Kinji Akagawa, Jantje Visscher, Jeremy Lund, Maren Kloppmann, Hazel Belvo, Laura Stack, Teri Bloch, Tom Riggle

Are there any local artists that you would like to see profiled here?

Teri Bloch and Tom Riggle

If I were to follow you around on an “art day” in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?

Probably visiting my friend’s studios. Maybe a trip to the MIA (Mpls. Institute of Art) to visit the Asian Art collection, MAEP gallery and Photography collection; Weinstein Gallery and looking forward to the Yves Klein exhibit coming to the Walker.

What was the last exhibit you saw and what were your impressions?

‘The Voided’ by Eun-Kyung Suh in the MAEP gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It is a beautifully intricate exhibit that explores memory and the hazy awareness of time passing.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?, Springboard for the Arts, Chicago Art Resources, Women's Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM),,, and many more.

Do you have any exhibits or any interesting things going on in your life or coming up in the near future?The next upcoming event is the Northeast Minneapolis Art Association (NEMAA) Fall Fine Arts exhibition in November. It is held in my building, the Grain Belt Bottling House, so I will open my studio for the weekend.

Beyond that I am preparing work for an upcoming group exhibit that explores four different areas, sculpture, figurative, abstract and nature-derived work from the perspective of gender. Each area has a pairing of one male and one female artist to see if gender affects our subject or process of working.

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