New Bonds and Studio Space Lead to Creative Leaps: Stacia Yeapanis on Chicago’s BOLT Residency / Art21

Stacia Yeapanis. “Don Draper,” 2011. Handmade cross-stitch embroidery. 14 x 10 in. Courtesy the artist.

When Stacia Yeapanis finished graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006, she did what many MFA grads do: moved her studio into her home. But soon thereafter Yeapanis found herself overwhelmed by an inability to separate her art practice from other areas of her life. Instead of fretting about it, she applied for the Chicago Artist Coalition’s first ever BOLT Residency, a program begun in 2011 to help local artists make solid, professional inroads in their practice.*

Yeapanis explores the emotional and existential experience of repetition in our daily lives. For instance, in her project My Life as a Sim (2005–2007), she mused on the idea of “winning” in a virtual reality that positioned life as a game. And in her series Everybody Hurts (2004–ongoing), she captures moments of heightened emotion in television shows, meticulously, obsessively, and meditatively creating cross stitches of them until what was fleeting becomes embroidered in time. She confronts and then transforms these moments in mass media into something nearly spiritual. Embracing emptiness in mediated culture, Yeapanis’s work transcends humdrum acts to create meaningful experiences out of what are otherwise empty signifiers.

Before starting the BOLT Residency, Yeapanis departed from video and cross stitching, transitioning into collage, though retaining the thread of remix culture already observable in her practice. In the following interview, Yeapanis and I discuss the process of applying for BOLT, how it changed her work, and why it’s essential for artists to do residencies both locally and nationally.

Alicia Eler: You participated in the BOLT Residency during its first year—what was that like?

Stacia Yeapanis: The program consists of a communal studio space in the basement of the Chicago Artists’ Coalition (there are nine studios) and offers studio visits with Chicago arts professionals, like curators, writers, other artists, and teachers. Although it doesn’t start immediately, you are getting to meet with these people at least once a month, maybe more, so you have at least twelve studio visits. Everyone gets a solo exhibition in the BOLT project space upstairs, so you’re preparing for that throughout the year.