Crystal Wagner received her MFA from the University of Tennessee in 2008, her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 2004, and her AFA from Keystone College in 2002. After teaching as a college art professor for five years, Crystal left academia to focus exclusively on her studio practice.
Wagner’s interest in combining 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional forms, alternative use of materials, and hybrid approaches to printmaking, and massive site-specific installations, have led to her artwork being exhibited extensively in the U.S and abroad. Notable commissions include a large-scale installation for the internationally recognized band The Flaming Lips. a large shadow box for GNU a snowboard company out of Portland, OR, a large-scale installation piece for NIKE, presented in the Shrine Auditorium for The KOBE X Blackout Experience, and most recently two installations for Viacom, one of which is a 117 ft piece at thier headquarters in Times Square.It was featured by the New York Times and was broadcast on national television on VH1's Top 20 Countdown, The United States Embassy, and most recently a large-scale installation for Warner Brothers, Grammy Musuem, Los Angeles, CA.
Currently you can find countless features on her work: New York Times, Architectural Digest, Artnet, Hi Fructose, Juxtapoze Magazine, Arrestedmotion.com, ArtAttacks Online, Art & Science Journal, Inspir3d.com, Complex Art & Design Magazine, Crome Yellow Magazine, Catapult Art Magazine, My Modern Met , Beautiful Decay Magazine and Dzinetripmagazine.com, many more. She was the recipient of an Awesome Without Borders, Awesome Foundation Art Grant and the Scultpure and Installation Category Award Winner of the SEE.ME, Art Takes Paris, international art competition. In print you can find features of her work published in Contemporary Paper Art Book, "Paper Art II" and the international contemporary installation book, "Global Installations" published by International Publishing. Select magazine features include: Dream Magazine, Bliss Magazine, 13 page article in Juxtapoz Magazine, 2015, Graffiti Art Magazine, 2016, Staf Magazine, 2016, 10 page spread in Hi Fructose Magazine's 2016 issue, Dream Magazine, India 2017, Frame Magazine, Amsterdam 2017, among countless others.
In 2015 she was awarded the highly coveted Pollock-Krasner Grant.
In a feature in Art & Object you were quoted as saying “I needed art school, I needed data.” How does your data-driven mindset affect your creative process? Are there unique challenges it brings you?
For me, information is everything. I appreciate the fact that we have access to so many remarkable means of knowledge right now. School didn't end when I graduated... it's perpetual. Growth is learning. Data is such an interesting word.. for me, and in the way I used it in that article, I was talking about context, intention, history, processes, and all of the foundational developments related to art and making throughout time and currently. The challenge for all of us is to understand our place in the world and how to be the best agents to our purposes that we can be.
Who / Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nature. Ecology. Architecture. I am inspired on an aesthetic and a philosophical level by nature. I adore the combination of form and function as it relates to teleology. Each fractal grows in a way based of its intentions, needs, conditions. The astounding relationship between things that exist in the breathing and non-breathing world inspires me to consider my own place and relationship within it. This has me currently involved in a deep visual conversation with ideas related to what notions of exotic, otherworldly, and foreign look like through the perceptive lens of modern people. I'm fascinated by otherness. That everything that is non-human is considered as 'other'. Through scope and scale, I explore these on both an intimate and a vast level.
What is your creative process like?
My process is entirely intuitive. I call them growths, because they, too, rely entirely on their environments. The large-scale installation work is incredibly time-consuming and labor-intensive. When I get on location while the initial conception of the gesture usually only takes me 15-20 minutes, the growing of the work takes a lot longer. From start to finish, it’s usually 12-14 hour days, everyday for 2 weeks. The outdoor works are even more intense.
Who are some of your favorite artists currently?
I appreciate and love artists that have their own voices and am always intrigued with artists that use both gesture and structure in combination in a way that reveals a something new in the combination. Images are pure poetry. Current artist crushes are Jose Luis Cena, John Wentz, Oliver Vernon, Morten Anderson.
How do you want people to feel / experience when they interact with your installations?
Ultimately I can only hope that the work evokes a sense of wonder. That it activates their sense of space, immersion, awakes their relationship with their increasingly atrophied peripheral awareness.
What message do you want your work to convey?
I’m interested in the conversation about our relationship with the natural world. The installations are hybrids between organic forms and manufactured materials and when grown into an otherworldly environment they produce a sense of sweeping wonder connected to our primordial understanding of space and environment. Each installation is made with the same reused birthday party table cloth, reuse, re-imagine, recycle.
What projects are you currently working on that our readers should be aware of?
COVID has truly transformed the world we live in. My spring was full of fairs and events, which have all been postponed or cancelled. As I work to recalibrate in the studio, I am taking time to breathe deeply and focus delicate attention to a new body of paper sculptures. Wonder can come from intimate encounters as well a large. Some of these new paper sculptures housed in acrylic domes will be on exhibit in NYC at Hashimoto Contemporary at the end of this month. The rest of 2020 is a mystery. Big Smile!