Tender Presence | Scott Vander Veen

Scott Vander Veen (he/him) is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Providence, Rhode Island while he pursues an MFA in painting at Rhode Island School of Design. He received his undergraduate degree from Bard College, where he studied literature and studio art. He has also been a studio apprentice at Dieu Donné papermill in Brooklyn and completed the Core Fellowship program at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina.

Long Slow Green Evil
Wood, acrylic, screenprint on paper with crayon, spray paint,
graphite, screenprint on plexiglass, grommets
24H x 18W x 1.5D inches

Wilt to Power
Wood, vinyl, foam, plexiglass, hardware, extension cord
47H x 46W x 4D inches

A World of Hurt
Wood, vinyl, foam, plexiglass, hardware, duct tape, epoxy clay, Plasti-dip
50H x 38W x 3D inches

Broadly, my studio practice is a practice of orientation. The found photographs that are foundational to my work are collected through an initial impulse of attraction, and their accumulation acts as a psychic indexing. In this thinking, I am indebted especially to Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology, which elucidates the relationships between our orientation in an identitarian sense, and our orientation in a navigational sense. The fragments of imagery in circulation in my studio act as landmarks, in both my process and the resultant works, that help situate artist and viewer and contribute to the construction of a paradigm of desire, symbolism, and selfhood. 

These photographic signposts are combined with an array of materials: swatches of color, paint, fabric, blocks of wood, sheets of reflective plexiglass, grommets, or mesh. These materials are intended to explicate a more specific attitude or psychic atmosphere towards the images at hand. Further, they intervene by troubling hierarchies of image and material; taking up phenomenological thinking again, I am interested in resisting complete subordination of material to image. In the studio, materiality, process, and craft act as obstacles or transistors to the voyeuristic impulse of image collection. The work maintains physicality, presence, and offers an immediate, non-metaphorical, optic, and haptic experience to a viewer. 

Drawing influence from queer theory, psychoanalysis, and “subculture” – particularly the underground aesthetics of the ’90s, this body of work confronts the baggage of gay identity politics. Queer identity exists now in a suspended state, torn between urgency and complete collapse. As Queer as a category of being itself becomes more utopically and necessarily ambiguous, it also becomes increasingly vulnerable to neoliberal sanitization or sterilization. Markers of identity are subsumed into capitalism, erased, or at least hollowed out, and again the matter of orientation is raised. Contemporary mainstream thinking tends to posit orientation as a mode of individuality in the highest order, linked closely to subjectivity. Contrary to this, I am interested in the way that orientation connotes alignment with others, with a collectivity. This work grapples with the problematics of past gay constructions of identity while simultaneously eulogizing their loss. Flirting with kitsch and pastiche, confronting the floundering promise of queer liberatory politics, the work attempts to balance a desire for specificity and belonging with the impossible violence and futility of such a search.

Pink Katydid
Wood, screenprint on plexiglass, collage, found photographs, acrylic, graphite
41H x 25W x 1D inches

gallery@penland.org   |   828.765.6211   |   Tuesday – Saturday  11:00 AM – 5:00 PM