"To me Esperanto perfectly represents the failure of universal meta- narratives, the sad yet recurrent subversion of good intentions, and the shifting platform of meaning upon which all language rests."

Pam Longobardi

Before becoming Assistant Professor of Art the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Pam Longobardi was a collaborative printer at the Experimental Workshop and at Teaberry Press, both in San Francisco. Recent solo exhibitions and installations have been shown across the United States, in Spain and in Eastern Europe. She was interviewed by into of her students. Roberta Frew earned a BA in English and is completing her BFA in printmaking. Jacque McLaughlin holds a BFA from West Virginia University and is presently an MFA candidate.


You have an additive approach to your artwork, it's dense and layered. Has this compositional organization and your use of material, shape and texture always been important or is this a recent development? I tend to think about the way things fit together from different perspectives. It's partly the influence of science, because of my background, and the perspective of an artist, which I think is one that tends to draw from varying sources and pull things together. This is probably less like the tendency inherent in Minimalism because I don't think there is just one story or one point of view. This probably has more of the sensibility of a kind of "Maximalism."
Is that why you always have something folding into your work that's like a new piece to your puzzle? Yes. A lot of that is based on a kind of chance association - a discussion with someone or something new that I've heard about or read. So there's always this open window for new information. Pieces to the puzzle is a really good way to describe it. At the base of what I'm trying to figure out is how I fit into the word as I understand it and how that's an ongoing quest of humans.
Your artistic output takes many different forms. What is the thread connecting all of this? From works on paper to printed copper objects, installations involving weather balloons, slide-dissolve sequences, strobe-flash, phosphorescence and text. The thread is conceptual in that I'm most interested in the ways in which humans attempt to understand the natural world. I think nature itself is incomprehensible to humans in its completeness, in its complexity. We can certainly dissect it, and compartmentalize it, categorize it, organize it and depict it. But the most complex essence of it is impossible to describe. I'm interested in the ways we've tried to understand how these different aspects fit together and I guess that's really the formation of belief systems.
Can you tell us how this work evolved out of printmaking? Well ... I think what is central to a certain aspect of printmaking is an interaction with nature. The etching of plates, for instance, is purely chemical. Certainly there are ways to control it, but I think just allowing in a natural process is really different from the specific intentional action of making marks with paint. That led me to think of these natural processes as my collaborator and to invite the uncertainty of that as well as the possibility of control
Have you ever had a situation in which the patinas have taken over? How much control do you have? You're right, the "stand-ins" for nature in these works are the copper and the chemically interactive patinas I paint onto it. The copper itself is thin and malleable: I emboss the surface in relief, scratch images into it, punch, hammer and rivet it. I have a certain amount of control over the patinas: I place each of the three or four main patinas that I use in certain positions and I know within a range what kind of coloration they might take. But they also change based on many factors that I have no control over, like the temperature and humidity - perhaps even in the way they are laid down with a brush, and none of that I really consciously think about, So, it's always a surprise when I go to the studio the next day and see what has happened. The "alchemical" intervention creates the abstract fields into which lay the punctuations of carefully rendered images - a superimposition of cultural markers on naturally occurring processes.