Phoenix Artist Mimi Jardine on the Meaning of Feminism, Preserving Trash as Art

What happens in the studio shouldn't always stay in the studio. Studio Visit is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Mimi Jardine, current president of Eye Lounge and operator of The Office of Environmental Responsibility.

Mimi Jardine's studio practice, which incorporates litter and found objects, is not only good for the environment, but it also makes for good art. With her presidency at Eye Lounge and the debut of the Mobile Remittance Unit for her Office of Environmental Responsibility project, she's been a prevalent force in the arts here in Phoenix. It's hard to believe that, prior to moving to Phoenix, she wasn't making and exhibiting work for about 20 years. We sat down in her home studio and chatted about where she started, how she got to where she is now, and what's next for her.

See also: Artist Samantha Lyn Aasen on Vajazzling, the Absurd Expectations of Womanhood (NSFW)

Jardine studied drawing and painting at the University of Georgia during the 1980s. After studying there over the course of several years, during which she spent a summer in Italy, she relocated to Colorado. She was producing artist's books and was represented there by a contemporary craft gallery. After relocating again -- this time to North Carolina -- Jardine and her husband ran a gourmet food and wine store for eight years. Her central focus wasn't on making and exhibiting work until just before arriving in Phoenix. When she got here, she immersed herself in it by joining Eye Lounge. "That was going to be my grad school," says Jardine.

"I think I've always been attracted to found objects and I've always been bothered by litter," says Jardine. When taking a class at Phoenix College taught by Joe Willie Smith, she was assigned to go to a vacant lot and find various items such as fast food packaging, plastic pieces, and electrical parts. Jardine's background coupled with these new discoveries in Phoenix enabled her to bring these various working parts together. When she lived in Colorado she would tape wildflowers to the pages of books, just as she does today with found trash.

Jardine's recent work revolves around The Office of Environmental Responsibility, a faux-government organization. It's To-Go Lid Division consists of obsessive documentation of litter -- the lids are scanned and documents provide them with an identity and an origin. The project is both a critique of such agencies and of a collective apathy towards littering. There's a sense of humor there, but Jardine is bringing serious issues to light. Last year she received SMoCA's Good 'N Plenty Grant for her project's Mobile Remittance Unit, which she debuted at Canal Convergence last weekemd.

Coming up for Jardine is a lot of new work and much more discovery. She is participating in "Feminism Today," a group exhibition at monOrchid that will have a First Friday reception on March 6. Her research into the state of feminism today led her to discover that for some, feminism is a negative word. "I cannot imagine that feminism is a bad word," Jardine says. The work that she will be presenting in March will utilize her found trash in a new way and get at the essence of feminism. Jardine will present her objects with that concept in mind that people are gendered at birth and forced into roles, having the viewer interact and impose a gender upon the object.

Tell us about your work in haiku format. light touch, thinking "ha!" life is funny, isn't it? we use way too much

What artist(s) are you really into right now? Lots! Thanks to you, Adrien Piper; globally: Mark Dion, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Mira Schendel, Petrit Halilaj, Isidora Correa, Miguel Palma, and more! Locally there are so many as well but I don't want to name names in case I insult someone for not including them.

What are you reading? The latest translation of Simon de Beauvior's The Second Sex, One More Thing by B. J. Novak, and REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched? I watch a ton of TV -- or listen to it at least -- while working around the house and in the studio.

It's mostly trashy murder mystery stuff on ID. The last film I saw in the theater was The Imitation Game and right now I have playing in the background The Nun's Story. When I have time to actually sit down to watch something it is a documentary. I love, love, love all types of documentaries, especially those by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why? I don't think of myself as a good team player, so I've never considered pursuing a collaboration.

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it? The last exhibition I saw was "Zona MACA" in Mexico City. It's the largest art fair of Latin American contemporary art and it was my first art fair. I found it odd that one would walk through such a crass, commercial environment (a huge convention and exhibition center) to look at art installations, but it worked; I forgot where I was while in there. I appreciated being introduced to lots of new work and being able to discuss things with the gallery representatives.

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramović and why? Both! Because they make me think.

What's the best advice you've ever received? I'm an Aries, I don't think we take advice! There have been bits here and there, but none that are big enough to get special billing.

What are you currently working on? I am working on my performance piece for Canal Convergence as well as a piece for Nicole Royse's "Feminism Today" show at monOrchid.

What's your most valued tool as an artist? Myself, or more specifically, my mind and its amazing ability to surprise me.

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Mikey Estes
Contact: Mikey Estes