Q&A with Waterloo Arts Fest Artist-in-Residence Angela Oster

Artist Angela Oster

When did you know you were an artist?

I’ve always loved to draw and make things, but it took a while to consider myself an artist. I think it was after I developed the habit of drawing every day that I had the confidence to call myself an artist.

How did you get your training?

I have a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art and took vocational commercial art in high school. I also did a mentorship with Dan Krall, an illustrator and animator. I also practice a lot on my own.

What types of work do you create?

I mostly draw cartoons. My goal is to make them funny, weird, cute and kind. I also make small sculptures based on my drawings. I like to call them delicate monsters and wide eyed weirdies. In art school, I studied installation and performance art; so, I also am interested in interactive, public art. But the running theme is to invoke delight, whether it’s a cute drawing or a playful sculpture.

Angela Oster vampire cartoon

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by everything! Sometimes it’s a vintage greeting card or an old video clip of an animation or an antique broach. I’m a fan of so many artists and so many kinds of art, and it gets all mashed up into my drawings and sculpts. There is an impulse that happens.

What do you do when you are not creating art?

When I’m not creating art, I like to look at art in museums and galleries. I teach at BayArts and work part time at Ohio Citizen Action. I love to spend time with my family and friends, watch movies, swim, and go to flea markets and libraries.

Have you shopped at HGR for your work?

Yes! HGR is like a candy store for artists. There is so much raw material; it’s boundless and inspiring, and it’s affordable!

If so, what have you found and how have you used it?

I found some orange “High Voltage” tape to use in a public sculpture for Waterloo Arts. The tape was a turning point in the evolution of my idea for the sculpture, and that would not have happened without HGR.

How did you get involved as an artist-in-residence with Waterloo Arts Fest?

I have participated as a vendor for many years at the fest. I think it is so unique in that it’s a real neighborhood event. There are a lot of hands-on activities for visitors of all ages. This year, I was invited to do a residency, so I jumped at the chance.

Tell us about the project.

I built an “Orange Removal Machine” — a community sculpture that served as a voter registration booth and also helped gather objects for “A Color Removed” at SPACES Gallery. I built a giant, open structure out of hula hoops and covered it with orange tape. I asked people to bring me any orange objects: clothing, toys, sports equipment, household items, etc. The objects have been cataloged and displayed as part of Michael Rakowitz’s installation at SPACES, during FRONT International.

Angela Oster Orange Removal Machine concept drawingAngela Oster Orange Removal MachineAngela Oster Orange Removal MachineAngela Oster objects for A Color Removed

What’s next?

I’m organizing a pop-up group show at the Osterwitz Gallery located at 15615 Waterloo Road in Cleveland on Sept. 7. I gave 30 artists a “Ting-a-ling Tina” Doll, a tiny doll inside a tiny phone. Each artist can customize the doll, or make a new piece inspired by the doll. It should be a fun show!

SPACES’ artists shop for materials at HGR Industrial Surplus

SPACES in September 2014 by Jake Beckman, photo by Jerry Mann
SPACES in September 2014 by Jake Beckman, photo by Jerry Mann

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Bruce Edwards, SPACES World Artist Program coordinator)

I am always amazed by the seemingly endless inventiveness of artists. They seem to get inspiration from so many different things. Some find excitement in the natural environment, others in a fantastic world. The expressions are equally varied and exciting. In Cleveland and in my experience with SPACES, a non-profit art organization, many find rich inspiration for their artwork in the fading industrial landscape of Cleveland. Often the artists will arrive from foreign lands and other cities and are drawn immediately to the large warehouses and manufacturing centers, and of course the steel mills with their stacks spitting fire over the downtown skyline. When the artists arrive to work at SPACES as part of the residency, HGR Industrial Surplus often comes up as a resource for material and inspiration.

I have been in Cleveland since the early 90s and have helped many artists gather material for their work in lots of places within the industrial areas. I have gone with artists through the steel mills and collected taconite balls and slag, I have gone to old warehouses with photographers looking for unique kinds of space and light. And I have gone to HGR where I have spent hours with artists going up and down the aisles looking at the various machinery and parts that are there for the taking.

I first heard about HGR many years ago when a fellow artist Dana Depew suggested that I go there for some pulleys needed for a project. He said that there were bins filled with everything that I could want. He was not wrong. Dana makes all kinds of intricate constructions from found parts and industrial debris; so, he would know. He works as a curator for the Slavic Village art initiative “Rooms To Let” that draws attention to the abandoned homes in that neighborhood by allowing artists to take over a house and fill it with installations. He also has owned his own gallery and shown many young up-and-coming artists in this region. Dana was a long-time board member of SPACES and helped a whole lot of artists make connections in Cleveland that helped them make their work.

Bruno by Dana Depew, courtesy of the artist
Bruno by Dana Depew, courtesy of the artist

When Jake Beckman came to Cleveland for a residency at SPACES, he had an Idea to illustrate the power and beauty of labor. We set him up in a warehouse space not far from The Powerhouse on the west side of downtown where Old School Salvage was located. He immediately set out to find as much material as he could that would allow him to explore the rich interaction between production and labor. He went to HGR and collected rollers and pulleys and some belting, servos. You name it; he gathered it up. For Jake, it was one-stop shopping. Although Jake lives and works in Philly, he returns to Cleveland often and goes to HGR each time to see what he can take back with him. Jake’s entire practice has revolved around the industrial landscape.

Excised by Jake Beckman, courtesy of the artist
Excised by Jake Beckman, courtesy of the artist

In the mid-90s, Laila Voss collected tons of material for a project as part of Urban Evidence, an expansive show that was on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Center for Contemporary Art, and SPACES. Voss, who now is the executive director of Art House Inc. in the near west side of Cleveland and a current board member of SPACES, has been making large-scale multi-media installations throughout her career — most recently showing at ARTNeo, a museum of Northeast Ohio. At one point, needing some material that would work for a projection screen and to build a replica of a water tower, she found what she needed at HGR, along with a slow-moving motor that would operate a part of the installation. Return trips to HGR are not uncommon for Laila.

Chaotic Symphony: The Catch-All Net by Laila Voss, courtesy of the artist
Chaotic Symphony: The Catch-All Net by Laila Voss, courtesy of the artist
Natural Forces by Laila Voss, courtesy of the artist
Natural Forces by Laila Voss, courtesy of the artist

Very often, the artists that I work with find that the people of Cleveland are helpful and friendly and willing to give their time and energy to help make a project happen. I love that I can send an artist to HGR and have them come back with big smiles having been inspired by the variety of machine and parts that are available and the openness of the staff to help them locate every odd bit of thing that an artist is looking for. Most often, the artist will return to pick up just one more thing that will help him or her outfit his or her studio or for some crazy-looking thing that will be just perfect for a project.