Make the Brutal Tender with June Artist Charles Yesenczki

Season 5: Make the Brutal Tender draws to a close with photographer and collage artist Charles Yesenczki. Charles spent his early years being coddled under the grey skies of the Ohio Valley. He was formally educated in art and photography at Ohio University but did most of his learning while on long car rides through the rolling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He now lives in Portland.

What appealed to you about this season’s theme: Make the Brutal Tender?
I had a pretty immediate and pretty strong guttural response to this theme right off the bat and that made it seem like it held a lot of creative potential. Brutality and tenderness are terms that most people define through their outlook on the world or through personal experiences and to me that feels a lot like how we come to see art as well. They also feel like terms that have an element of dualism and non-dualism to them. While things we find to be brutal or tender seem very opposite from one another at first I think upon deeper reflection all things have the potential to contain both elements.

So, I think I found that element of quasi non-dualism, or whatever you might call it, something that I could really reflect on and sink my teeth into creatively. I think collage is the perfect medium for exploring how to let opposing elements coexist within the same spacial plain.


How do you think your work and/or practice relates to the theme?
I’ve always found collage to be such an interesting practice with absolutely endless possibilities when it comes to interpretation and practice. It sort of skirts the outer edges of both reality and fantasy. For me it has this really beautiful balance between destruction and creation. There is something inherently brutal or savage to the reductive aspect of cutting and tearing away at paper. But at the same time there is another side to it. One that takes patience and care to preserve and create from these left over pieces or scrapes.

As far as my personal work goes I find myself focusing a lot on subjects that contain some level of inner conflict or inherent dissonance. Things like sex and nature come up a lot as well as technology and the human form. For me these subjects all contain inherently provocative or harsh elements but are also redeeming in their beauty and tenderness. I like to try to find some balance in an image that will allow a little bit of tension to evolve or find some space to open up a bit of mystery.


Describe the editions you’ll be contributing this season.
These are three pieces I’ve been cooking up for a while now and for me they each seem to capture some essence of the theme. They are all paper cut collages that I scanned and printed. I prefer presenting them in this way because once a collage is printed it begins to take its finished form. It’s no longer just paper pasted to paper (don’t get me wrong that’s also my jam), now it’s all one complete piece with nothing separating any of the parts. For me they start to take on a sort of illustration like quality that isn’t really present until they are printed.

I guess if I had to describe the pieces individually without giving too much away or pretending that I actually knew what they were specifically about I would say that they each carry with them a little bit of sorrow and a little bit of joy.


Who are some of your artistic influences?
I guess I go through different phases when it comes to inspiration. I try not to over do it when it comes to looking at other peoples collage work for fear of becoming too influenced or self conscious about my own work. There are, however, a few artists I’ve been following on instagram that I really like and feel like are definitely worth sharing. Two of my favorite right now are both wonderful multidisciplinary artists who make music as well as collages. One is an artist based out of copenhagen named øjerum who makes really dark mystical collages and the other is Ted Feighan who also goes by the stage name Monster Rally. Feighan’s work is sort of the opposite of øjerum in that he makes these fun summery landscapes that are full of color and tropical vibes. Both really beautiful and inspiring artists that I would suggest checking out.


What interests you in Community Supported Art?
I think art can often slip away from us all and it ends up looming above us in some distant sphere where it becomes intimidating and unapproachable to most audiences or it ends up as some counterproductive distraction to artists who just become obsessed with matching that level of success. Community supported art seems to be better at keeping art grounded, not to say that the art itself can’t be contemporary and conceptual, but just that it keeps the bridge between artists and the people directly experiencing their work wide open.


What are you listening to / reading / looking at right now?
I’m listening to a lot of Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, who are two really talented guitarists.

I’m sort of all over the place with what I’m reading right now. I usually have some Pablo Neruda somewhere close by and I’m also reading The Castle of Crossed Destinies by Italio Calvino, Letters From a Stoic by Seneca and Religion and Science by Bertrand Russell.


What do you wish to communicate or achieve through your work?
To be honest I’m not entirely sure. I guess I’m just like anyone else in that my motivations change all the time depending on what I’m working on or working with, as far as source material goes, or simply what sort of mood I’m in at any particular time. Sometimes I feel the impulse to push peoples boundaries a little but mostly I hope that my work can show that there’s nothing wrong with feeling a little uncomfortable sometimes and things don’t have to fit perfectly together or do what you expect them to do.