JK: Beyond the interactive work that you do currently, we were talking about how you started out in comics and zines. I am unfamiliar with Pittsburgh’s Zine scene but can you talk about what that is and your involvement in it?
SN: I don’t know what it is now but my involvement in it was I used to help a group of friends, we would get together and make an anthology every month. And it was called Andromeda. That’s what it was and we would put it out every month. Then we scaled back and put it out quarterly. So a lot of the work was made on a Sunday …. we would take all that work from that drawing Sunday or people would submit it all over places. And we would pick what we wanted, pick what we didn’t want and hold off for another one, and then publish it… And so we did that for, I don’t know, almost 2 years. And that was something I was really interested in. And then I wanted to maybe stop doing just drawings and bring those illustrations I was doing up. That’s why I made the doll house, that’s why I make dolls. I just thought they were getting a little boring living on that paper… The dolls I make are something I would already draw. I would have been drawing that. So they just came.
JK: So they are inspired by your illustrative past?
JK: Other than the Modern Formation show [Boring Chores, Earthly Delights], was that your first show that involved a lot of doll work?
SN: Yes. I showed a little bit in Crazy Mocha. That was a little bit freeform because it was just at a coffee shop… I think that’s where my second idea to call myself Tin Can Tramp Folk Art came from. That’s a genre that I made up. That would be my own genre of work.
JK: Can you describe that?
SN: It’s a lot of found objects, repainting them, repurposing them. And things that could be Folk Art, like dolls, painting on tin... That could be the Tin Can part. The tramp part comes from walking, because I’ve never driven before and I would always walk everything to these locations for people to see. And tramp is kind of like a walker person that’s just walking around. And I would bring it all to this place. Once I had an art show in the back of this antique store on Penn Avenue. I put it all in a shopping cart and walked it there.
JK: So the process of walking it there sort of becomes part of the work right?
SN: Yes because if I can’t walk it there, it’s not going to make it there. I have to physically take it there, like the Trash Lady in the Labyrinth that has everything on her, she is just getting to her location.
JK: Let’s talk about some of your most recent exhibitions, you did a show at Modern Formations, The Fort Pitt Museum, and Gus’s Bar… What did you like about each of those places for showing your work?
SN: I’ve said this before, I don’t fit in anywhere. But I can fit into all of those places. So in the Museum a topic was brought to me, make something of that time period for the Fort Pitt Museum. So I made pockets. I embroidered pockets. Women weren’t allowed to carry things of their own so they had to make these secret pockets. And they put them under all of their skirts and things. They embroidered them, and it was a celebration of womanhood. I liked that. Then at Modern Formations, I wanted to do a show and I really wanted Katie Gould and Meghan Shalonis to do it with me. And that was a celebration of womanhood. That’s what our whole show was based on. At Gus’s bar, I love to go to a bar, and sit around and have fun. That’s a place where so many more people will see [my work]. The museum is very, “I’m at the museum.” The gallery is very much, “I’m at the gallery.” At the bar, I’m just at the bar and I didn’t know there was going to be art here. I like that surprise.
JK: Do you think there is more conversation about your work?
SN: Maybe and I think that it’s nice that no one’s maybe going to talk about it too. That it’s just a quiet thing that maybe they think about after they woke up the next morning. Maybe they didn’t see it when they were there because they were partying, but then maybe they would see it again in their thought process …. That’s something that I like to make my art like. It’s something that you’ve maybe seen before and you’re not sure where it came from. Like the dolls I make or the eggs I paint. You’ve maybe seen someone do it before but I couldn’t place it.
SN: So I was supposed to do a fashion show, and it all fell through. It didn’t work out. And I was making all of these hats. And I told my grandmother I was making all these hats… and she said, “Well I want you to know that I used to make hats, and once I had a fashion show. And the World’s Fair was going on, so I made a World’s Fair hat.” And I said, “Gigi, was anyone else in the fashion show with you?” She said “No, I did it myself.” She’s an artist. She went to the Rhode Island School of Design so she likes to tell me I’m doing right. She always told me when I was younger, “Don’t ever have kids young because that’s something I had to do and I couldn’t be the artist I wanted to be.”
JK: So your work is also connected to family?
SN: Yes. That’s why I made the doll house because when I was little my grandma gave me and dollhouse that she made. And inside the doll house was wallpaper from my family home and pictures of my brother and I. So most of the art now is dolls and really nice things. When I was making comics I was making things about nasty stuff and it doesn’t need to be nasty anymore.