Featured Artist: Tra Bouscaren

Tra Bouscaren

Tra Bouscaren is a post-disciplinary artist, professor and independent researcher based in Watsonville, California.

Incorporating neon, demolition rebar, lab equipment, trash cast in epoxy, monumental hand-carved styrofoam sculpture and other junk-object assemblage, Bouscaren programs interactive video-mapped environments which envelop material substrates into a video bath built out of multiple live surveillance feeds taken from within the space of exhibition.  Orphaned objects form the base of his fundamentally speculative practice from which he renders material artifacts of toxicity and illness as forms of abstract, video-soaked spectacle. Bouscaren takes the world itself as a projection of found object/images through which he must act, and ultimately re-project.

As a way to restore and renew ideas in his overall practice, Bouscaren periodically revisits his first medium, painting.  His ongoing series of wildlife paintings take things outside of his studio walls by focusing on the welfare of endangered species.  The paintings appropriate the gestures of abstract expressionism, but tweak that language towards representational ends.  His most current series of paintings represent tigers, but are titled after other, popularly unknown endangered species.

“These less charismatic, but just as ecologically important, endangered species are dressed up in the representation of the tiger,” says Bouscaren. “The representation of the tigers are then further dressed up in the language of Abstract Expressionism. Thus, overlooked corners of the ecosystem that are living on the brink, without our support or attention, are hitched to images and styles that have a certain attraction in popular culture such that these ‘unpopular’ species have a better shot at finding support.”

Tra is committed to donating a portion of his sales of these works to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Bouscaren’s work has been featured nationally and internationally at notable venues including the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, the Centre Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Victor I Fils Gallery in Madrid, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Hallwalls in Buffalo, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco, and Lincoln Center, New York. The artist has been represented by N2 Gallery, Barcelona since 2007.


How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
Twenty-five years ago as an undergrad at Yale, I did graduate work in both Art and Philosophy.  I found them to be asking the same kinds of questions in different ways.  Questions of media ontology have been particularly central for my practice for some time.  Currently I’m writing a dissertation on reciprocal readings of Mark Hansen’s conception of embodied media ontology and Juliane Rebentisch’s installation aesthetics.

Who has been a big influence to you in your career?
So many have come in and out of focus, and back in again.  Paul Thek, Lynda Benglis, Gilles Deleuze, Katharina Grosse, Konono No 1, and Albert Oehlen come to mind at the moment.

When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
I love creative blocks.  More than anything else, the recognition of a creative block presents the opportunity to get yourself out of a rut.  ”Stay with the trouble”, as Donna Haraway says.  Just keep working through the problem until it has transformed into a memory.

What legacy do you hope your work creates / What message do you hope it communicates?
Legacy is for toad software and messages are for PBS.  I just try to make art.  For me that’s hard enough.  

How do you define success?
When my kid laughs.

Explore Tra’s latest work at www.tra-bouscaren.com.

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