Atlanta multimedia artist Bojana Ginn and the Mary S. Byrd Gallery at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, were recently awarded the 2018 Ellsworth Kelly Award. Each year, the Foundation for Contemporary Art gives the $40,000 grant to support a museum exhibition for a contemporary artist, and this year, the grant will allow the gallery to stage a new exhibition by Ginn in the fall of 2019.
ArtsATL stopped by the artist’s home studio in Decatur to have a chat about her work and her plans for upcoming shows in Augusta and around Atlanta.
ArtsATL: Tell us about this material on your kitchen table. What is this stuff? How did you find it and start working with it?
Bojana Ginn: It is organic sheep’s wool. I started working with it as a student because it’s a material I liked. It was always around me in this village where my father’s dad used to live. My dad was born in a village on a high mountain in Serbia. . . . My aunts would work with the fiber. What women typically do with this, it’s called roving, they “felt” it. You felt with water into blankets, covers or shawls, clothing, rugs, blankets. You take a fiber, you aggravate it, you entangle. In 20 minutes you can create a little blanket. What we do is the opposite of that. . . . What I noticed is that when you stretch it, each little line becomes like the line of a drawing, a drawing in space. I started playing with it, separating it, making these very soft 3D drawings. I also liked it because it’s a protein. When I was at SCAD studying, I was inspired by DNA and proteins. I was merging the science background of mine with art. It kind of made sense to work with biomaterial. It hit all the spots. . . . I want to use the technology of our times, it’s very important to me, but also I love to use these ancient things, this softness. Don’t forget the body in this age of the virtual when we all live in our heads. We are still bodied creatures. I like to bring that in.
ArtsATL: Does it arrive that color? Do you dye it?
Ginn: I used to color it myself. Now I just order it because I need lots of it. I can’t really color it here.
ArtsATL: How long does it take to turn from a roll of wool into these cloud formations?
Ginn: In four hours, we create three almost-filled boxes. I have to lightly spray it with hairspray because it needs to live in a box for months. For this project, we will need hundreds of boxes.
ArtsATL: And this is all destined for your show at MOCA GA?
Ginn: Yes. There will be fiber with light and projection.
ArtsATL: You mentioned your childhood in Serbia. Did you grow up surrounded by a lot of artists? How did you originally know you were an artist?
Ginn: I didn’t. I didn’t really know. I had a blessing and a curse to have lots of different interests and to be good at them. It always flattered my ego to be one of the best students and winning competitions. When it was time for me to decide — do I want science? writing? languages? art? — I didn’t know. When I was about to decide on my career, it was a very hard time in Yugoslavia. It was disintegrating. In 1993, we had the worst recorded inflation in history. It was like going to buy a loaf of bread for a million dinars, and the next day it’s two million dinars. I thought, “I can’t go into art. I don’t even know what that means.” I was exposed to art through books, we had art education, but I never met someone who was exhibiting or making a living from art. That concept was unknown to me.
ArtsATL: Were your parents involved in the sciences?
Ginn: Not directly, but my parents were intellectuals. It was encouraged. That was something that was wonderful about Yugoslavia. I don’t talk about it often, but it was a wonderful country where science and education were very valued. . . . One day when I was a little girl, one of those moments that kind of wakes up something inside of you, I was looking at television and suddenly I saw this man painting a woman’s body blue. And then they made prints. This was an educational program for children. Even though there was nudity, it was art. It was considered normal and healthy and beautiful. . . . I always knew art lived in your hand and in your imagination, but when I saw that, it activated the whole of me. I was like: oh my God, all of me can become art. Of course, later I discovered it was Yves Klein. It was his work. . . . I didn’t know any artists, but I knew of art through contemporary media, I guess.
ArtsATL: What initially brought you to the states?
Ginn: My husband and I met in Belgrade. He was working with 7 Stages, and we married there. I came here. It was a very easy and wonderful process.
ArtsATL: Were you working as an artist at that point? Did that happen here?
Ginn: I’d just finished medical school over there. I started my internship. I was in the process of becoming a working MD, and then I came here, and it was a chance to just dream. A new beginning.
Ginn takes us to her basement to show us a projection she’s working on for an event at Georgia Tech.
Ginn: This is a collaboration I’m doing with the astrophysics department at Georgia Tech. These are NOAA and NASA images. They’re images of recently discovered creatures very deep in the sea. They’ve also been discovering new exoplanets. I’ve been thinking a lot about Giordano Bruno and his fate, how it was just a few hundred years ago, and now we’re discovering exoplanets: it’s like living in a science fiction film. We want to touch on the imagination of people, what these new worlds might look like. Do we need to create them? Are they already existing? We want, through the imagination and video editing, to make these images [come] alive, to get people to think about it. It’s a part of reality now.
ArtsATL: Do you know what this creature is?
Ginn: It’s actually a microscopic thing. I want to blow up this world that’s microscopic and make it really big. The stars will be small, so we’ll play with scale in an interesting way. You can see here I animated, so it’s pulsing. I want to play with them being more transparent. This is just the beginning. I want them to move. I want them to pulsate . . . We’ll have projections on a couple walls and hopefully on the floor, too.
Ginn leads us into a basement office space full of monitors, cables and computer equipment. She tells us about her plans for an upcoming installation at the Georgia Cyber Institute on the campus of Augusta University, opening July 10, in advance of her museum show at the university’s Mary S. Byrd Gallery of Art in the fall of 2019.
Ginn: The University of Augusta is evolving. They used to have a medical school there. Now it’s kind of evolving into a technical college. Their biography kind of reflects my biography. The curator Shannon Morris liked my work, so I’m having this wall installation with floating monitors. I’m making it out of my photographs. There will be nine monitors, if you imagine the line in between. Up above we’re going to have abstract blue and white videos. Underneath there will be these black and white photographs moving gently. So it’s going to be sculptural. It’s tough to imagine, but I’m excited because it’s going to go into their permanent collection.
ArtsATL: Atlanta is obviously very different from Serbia. Do you find it an inspiring place to work?
Ginn: I think Atlanta is fantastic. Inspiration doesn’t always have to be artistic inspiration. I like to have a home where I hear birds and it’s quiet. I didn’t like that in the beginning. When I first moved here, I didn’t like Atlanta. I came from a very busy city to a place where you drive all the time. I didn’t know how to live here. When I actually learned what the city is about, then I decided what I want to have here. Right now, that’s what I find inspiring, this healthy, beautiful, calm, green, walkable space where I have people that I love. I think when it comes to art, Atlanta is changing. The last couple of years has been an explosion of great art shown here. It gives us all hope. I think we all feel that. . . . The culture is just boiling. I think it’s fantastic.