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  • Victoria Hood, Founder

IN THE STUDIO WITH TINA SCEPANOVIC & THEO COULOMBE

Updated: Apr 17

A Dialogue Between Sculpture and Photography

By Victoria Hood



The latest exhibition, 'Into The Mist,' at Standard Space gallery in Sharon, CT, is a two person show featuring sculptures by Tina Scepanovic and photography by Theo Coulombe. The show’s name is inspired by the Van Morrison song, ‘Into The Mystic,’ and each artist examines mist through their own practice. The words of the song poetically say,


When that fog horn blows

You know I will be coming home

Yeah, when that fog horn whistle blows

I gotta hear it

I don't have to fear it


And I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old

And together we will float

Into the mystic


What, therefore, does each piece say? The conversation between the sculptures and photographs is meant to be open to interpretation. Through my joint interview with Tina and Theo, I personally found an artistic joy for collaboration, nature, and, yes of course, mist. What do you see buried in the fog? 


Where are you from and what is your first memory of art?


Tina Scepanovic, Overlook November 2023 , copper gilded plaster, 19 x 8 x 5 in

T.S: I was born and raised in Silicon Valley, California, surrounded by apple orchards and the spirit of innovation. My first memory of art was the Roman Pool at Hearst Castle, which left an indelible impression on me as an eight year-old. Styled after an ancient Roman bath, the indoor structure is covered floor to ceiling in tiny mosaic tiles of gilded gold, warm ochres and vibrant lapis lazuli depicting sea creatures by British muralist Camille Solon. To this day, no matter how lost I get in my thoughts, I somehow always end up appearing as a mermaid there in my imagination.




T.C: My mother and father brought my siblings and me up in Fairfield, CT, but we spent our vacations visiting family in Biddeford and Sacco, ME. Our father was an English teacher and public-school administrator, and reading literature and camping in nature was very important in our upbringing. Our mother, an oncology nurse, also ensured we were exposed to music as well as visual and performing arts. We therefore made monthly trips into NYC to see the museums, theaters, and my mother’s childhood friend JP.


JP was an artist in the truest sense of the word: a painter living on the Lower West Side with a studio in Greenwich Village. Her ease with people, love of food from around the world, and her curiosity had a huge impact on me. Sadly, I only found out later in life how imbedded in the larger art world she was. She knew every artist of the late 1950s, 60s through the 70s and best friend was Faith Ringgold. She’s why I became an artist.


How did you pursue your studies and career to be an artist?


Tina Scepanovic, Peter's Lawn, November 2023, copper gilded plaster, 17.5 x 16 x 5”


T.S: My path has been entirely organic. I have a background in science and music and only enrolled in my first art class — a furniture finishing workshop at the Isabel O’Neil Studio in New York City — a few years ago as a form of therapy. There, I was introduced to historical decorative painting techniques ranging from gilding to faux marble to eggshell lacquer. The idea of being able to render any surface in virtually any material is pretty powerful to say the least, and since then my mind has been buzzing with the possibilities. Sometimes I’m trying to answer a question about life that a finish or form seems to answer. Other times my pursuit is purely technical. One inquiry leads to another and it’s an endless game that I could play forever. 




T.C: I was the third son in a very middle class, suburban family, who was a terrible student. Starting in second grade I was labeled as ‘learning disabled’ (which was a very undeveloped field of education in the 70s), and I also had a healthy distain for sports. It was awful. My high points? English literature, history classes, and most importantly art classes and those teaching them. Photography in particular kept me going till I graduated high school. Unbelievably I attended Parsons School of Design / New School. It was incredible that I was accepted, and my first ‘success’ as an artist, but the commute from Fairfield into the city meant I was either late to or I missed classes. I was told I was talented but put on ‘academic probation’. I lasted one semester.

 

So began my ‘late-to-launch’ period. Self-doubt and perceived failure reinforced by an ever-present, ‘We’re French Catholics peasant and don't deserve better’ mind set of my family derailed my goals for about seven years. In that time span I moved away, became a carpenter, and a seasonal park ranger in Maine rebuilding the Appalachian Trail. I was constantly taking pictures with a 35mm camera, and it was in Maine that I became aware of my love of landscape, but the ideas were not focused. Carpentry was not for me, but I had learned how to work and pay attention to details, so I went back to art school. For my undergraduate degree, I bounced from Paier College of art in New Haven, CT, to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Then a one-year stint in Budapest, Hungary followed by my master’s degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in MI. My studies were always in Photography and Art.

 

Where do you go from there? When I graduated in 1993, I move to Williamsburg, Brooklyn


What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of being an artist?


Tina Scepanovic In the Valley November 2023 copper gilded plaster 11 x 20 x 7”

T.S.: The most challenging aspect is when you have a lot to say but feel invisible. The most rewarding aspect is finding community during these times. 




T.C.: The challenges have been learning to be yourself, embracing new discoveries, and being willing to hear from others. Also, not to atrophy in my practice. History is a major and a rewarding source for me. I don’t think the entire timeline is considered, particularly the hidden histories in the History of Art or Photography. History ties in directly with our personal stories, both apparent and hidden. When I photograph landscapes now, at that moment, with the shutter click, all of these histories come together in an instant and disperses again.


How would you describe the conversation between the sculptures and the photography? 


Tina Scepanovic, Someplace November 2023, copper gilded plaster, 17.5 x 14 x 7 “


T.S.: It is reminiscent of the conversations I had with my boys when they were toddlers. They would ask a question, and I would give a simple response and introduce a new word to their vocabulary. Miraculously, they would be completely satisfied with my answer and spend the entire rest of the day repeating the new word back to me. It was pure, uncomplicated, and sweet.




T.C: I would go one step further and point out the dialogue between the sculptures and landscapes. Photography is the vehicle, but the landscape is the point of reference. Sculpturally speaking, Tina’s pieces in the round, in three dimensions, give voice to the emotional presence and representation of being in the physical landscape with the light represented by the pure, bright copper. That light and warmth is where my histories come together, in that one instance, that snap of the shutter. Tina’s sculptures describe the experience of a landscape becoming a photograph, a two-dimensional space.


What is your favorite piece of the other artist in the show and why? 


Tina Scepanovic, Out of the Woods November 2023, copper gilded plaster, 14 x 12.5 x 5”


T.S.: Two Views RIGHT and LEFT, As I Face East Toward CT-4 From Herrick Rd, Sharon, CT.’ First, these are just gorgeous shots. Second, Theo shared that he was after one landscape and simply turned around and saw the other. It was a great reminder to keep multiple points of view open while creating. I can be quite rigid when it comes to plans, but over time I’ve realized that when you stick to the plan all you get is the plan. Often, the fun lives just to the right or left of the plan!  




T.C: Peter’s Lawn,’ because the two works together share the language of horizon and space. The central point of both is undefined. 


Looking to the future, what do you have planned next? 


Tina Scepanovic, November 2023, copper gilded plaster, 17 x 12 x 4”


T.S.: Speaking of plans, this Spring I will be activating a space with Art on the Avenue NYC, an organization that hosts artists in vacant storefronts. This residency opportunity will allow me to work at a larger scale than ever before and engage with the public over the course of a project. I am already brainstorming ways to incorporate interactive components in my art while maintaining my commitment to historical finishes. Going bigger also means modifying some of my existing processes, so a fair amount of research will go into stocking my studio appropriately for the gig! I am excited to see how my work evolves within this model of creating. 




T.C: Fog has been such an important element in my imagery and so much of my work is hit or miss, based on timing and willingness to get up early that it’s hard to say… Oddness in the ordinary is my mantra when I think about it, but I’ve been finding and attraction in Shades of Night. We’ll see.

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