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INTERVIEW

selena tosh

december 10, 2017

richmond, virginia



Ava: We’re sitting on play chairs and the phone is propped up on slime jars, just to set the scene.
Adele: Our first question is always: are you a cat or a dog?
Selena: I think I’m definitely a cat. I think if somebody had a dog and it was like me, they’d be like, “there’s something wrong with this dog.” [laughs] I’m a cat maybe just as a default because I consider cats to be more introverted than dogs.
Adele: Yeah, understandably.
Ava: That’s how I see it.



Adele: Do you have a morning ritual and what is it like?
Selena: I wish I had a morning ritual, or more of one, but right now I have been ripping myself out of bed and going to work. I have to be really deliberate about it, but if I give myself enough time in the morning, I like to get up and read. I try to avoid my phone and everything in the morning because I can get sucked right into that so easily and then it’s like I didn’t even wake up.
Adele: That’s my morning ritual. It’s so bad. It’s like binge eating, you wake up and you binge into the phone. It’s just a slow wake up for me and it’s so mindless, and I do it every morning. It’s gross.
Selena: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been doing it too. The thing that really sucks about it is that then I don’t remember my dreams at all.
Adele: Yeah!
Selena: I have to take a minute to process them and try to recall everything that happened. And if I pick up my phone right away, it all disappears.
Adele: Yeah, and then only the traumatic dreams are the ones that stay.
Selena: Then you are trying to escape it by scrolling.
Adele: And go into the surrealist dreamland of Instagram. I don’t know, it’s still such a good resource for me. It’s just that when all of my references are Instagram, I feel that I have regressed somehow.
Selena: Yeah, conversationally I feel that.
Adele: People are like, what artists are you looking at right now? And I’m just like, “Um, give me a second,” and that is incredible because now my memory bank is in my phone.
Selena: It’s an extension of your brain, this tool.
Adele: —and then I wonder if I’m only inspired by these things because they are so flat and visual and easy to comprehend. It feels superfluous.
Ava: It’s so easy to digest. Then when I get to a an exhibition, for example, that may be a little more complex, I’m like, “How do I process this?!” Yeah, it’s horrible.



Ava: What have you been listening to in the stu—[cat enters] Ahhhhhh! Hello!
Selena: This is Leonard.
Adele: Hey Leonard!
Selena: As far as what I’ve been listening to, I feel like my music taste is tainted in the same way my exposure to art is.
Ava: Tainted by Spotify?
Selena: Not tainted by Spotify. Tainted by SoundCloud. I just listen to the Explore page and like things but I could not tell you the name of songs or artists off the top of my head. I also end up listening to a lot of Japanese stuff but I can’t read Japanese. I feel like music that I always come back to when I’m making art is Justin Bieber’s Purpose. For some reason, I feel a lot more like myself when I listen to that album. When I’m coming back to my art practice, that’s the feeling I want to simulate.
Adele: I definitely had an Avril phase at the beginning of this summer.
Ava: I wish I had been around for that!
Adele: I listened to her really loud, I’m sure our landlords could hear. I just needed to dance around and feel like I was 12 again. It was pretty great. I’m learning to shed my shame of music listening choices.
Ava: I think that is one relief of getting older: listening to the music you like and not caring what other people think.
Selena: Yeah, it sucks though when an artist is a shitty person. Then I’m conflicted about it. I’m not down with a lot of what is going on with Justin Bieber’s public persona, or that a lot of the music is so directly ripping off Caribbean Music.
Ava: Did you guys see when someone took sneaky photos of Justin Bieber naked? Like he was walking onto a pool deck?
Selena: Wasn’t he like really buff and old-looking or something?
Ava: I don’t know. His dick was blurred out but you could tell it’s like, a huge dick.
Selena: [looking at the phone] Wait what do you Google?
Ava: Google Justin Bieber nudes.
Adele: Justin Bieber schlong. Hey, the power of graphic design. Making myths out of images.
Selena: Oh, he’s in Hawai’i. Oh my god! He’s not naked. Oh, he’s naked here. What is this title?!
Ava: Yeah! That’s the thing, his Dad is always commenting on how big it is.
Selena: His son’s penis? Yeah see, I like the music but I can’t get into all this. It’s a disaster.



Adele: What is your definition of intimacy and how does that play into your work?
Selena: I have to think about a definition of intimacy, but I do feel like this body of work accidentally—in a Freudian slip kind of way—expresses something about the way I connect with people. Have y’all seen what I've been working on recently?
Adele: No, but please show us.
Selena: So this is the body of work that I was making for my last show but I feel there’s still a lot more to be explored. I took a lot of kids toys and replaced elements of them with my own pieces. And this guy—this one still works. [wind up toy sounds, whistles and jingles in the background] I just realized that I have this fixation on artificiality and things that are really flat and easy to digest and empty. And I feel like there’s something—I think I’ve written about this—there’s probably some fruitful comparison there, like how I feel like I struggle making real connections with other people. I feel like that’s reflected in what I make. These hues are undiluted colors and they don’t occur that much in nature. You kind of only see them symbolically. Like, the brightest purest orange--you might only see it for a millisecond inside a flame. A piece of plastic approaches it more than anything that’s not made by people. I think there’s something interesting in trying to boil down Truths—like capital T truths—in life. To witness an absolutely pure color is as impossible and tantalizing to me as witnessing a truly objective truth. This work is a sphere of my life where I can execute control and interact with these known elements—it feels like I can get close to a Truth.
Adele: Like the colors are kind of like these solid Truths that you are working with.
Selena: Yeah, just to have something undiluted. It feels like the rest of my life is like—everything is such a grey area. This is vibrant. It’s probably a control thing. In this piece, I was trying to create a codex of some of the stuff that I was using in compositions to fill my resin pieces.



Adele: What is your definition of romance?
Selena: I’m gonna reference an Instagram post. [laughs] I saw Erykah Badu posted her definition of love and I liked what she said. She said that there’s real love and she said that it’s not only about an interaction between a person and any other thing, necessarily. It’s sort of like a state of divinity and a real connection with being. And then she said that all other kinds of love are liquid love. And then she listed off these bodily secretions as the sources of the other sorts of love. So, like, pheromones, sperm, spit, and just this crazy list. That hit home. I mean, that’s a really cynical way to look at romance between two people: becoming each other’s dealers for this chemical hit of the liquid love.
Ava: I think love is a chemical imbalance.
Selena: Yeah? Go into that.
Ava: That feeling of being in love, or like, when you’re first with someone, is totally throwing all your brain chemistry out of whack and i just think it’s very deceiving.
Selena: Yeah, I feel like being in love is just an excuse to be completely crazy for however long it lasts. And you just write it off, like, “whatever, I’m in love.”
Ava: But that’s the scary thing: however long it lasts. Because then it does wear off and you’re like, “wait, what—” And you remember it differently with every passing moment thereafter. I’m feeling a little cynical about it right now. I really believe in it but I also think it’s a drug. Lovedrug. Isn’t that a song?
Selena: When the flow of the lovedrug gets interrupted—have you seen where they say the withdrawals are akin to recovering from a cocaine addiction?
Adele: Yeah, you become crazed. It’s insane the things that you—or I—will do. But it is kind of amazing, that level of desperation.
Ava: —to chase that feeling and keep trying to feel that—
Adele: —and then the way you act after it’s cut off or inaccessible.



Selena: I think there’s a lot of pressure put on romantic love to fulfill a lot of the things that were being fulfilled in the past. And now that’s the only thing that can scratch those itches.
Ava: Yeah, because now we’re looking out for that one person who will make our lives complete! That’s a horrible concept.
Selena: We don’t have religion anymore. We don’t have home land anymore, or like, community. So it’s like, well, I might as well search for one person who is somehow going to be all those things.
Ava: Might as well just search for God here on Earth.
Adele: In hindsight, I realize that a lot of previous relations that I’ve been in seem to be about this trophyism of the term boyfriend. That there was some pride in being able to say that I had a boyfriend, as if I was deserving of this merit-based love.
Selena: Yeah, I’m guilty of the conquest thing. There’s part of me that’s trying to explore whether I can win that approval from people. But it’s not something that I actively want to sustain after winning it.
Ava: It’s like that phrase or concept or whatever: the chase is always more fun than the catch.
Selena: Oh yeah, I’m so guilty of that.
Adele: Yeah, the reality of dating. Like, having them accidentally pee on you in the shower or something. And I think that comes back to the sense of desperation with which we pin all our spiritual and social needs onto one single person that we’re trying to partner with. Anyways, I do love the way you chose to answer that question with this idea of liquid love.
Selena: Yeah! [holding up a piece] This resin is one of my liquid loves.



Adele: Would you tell us more about the materials you use and why you choose to use them?
Selena: I use a lot of plastic. Mainly plastic. It’s pretty readily available and it holds color in a way that other things don’t. I’m really interested in the fact that many of these pieces—when you cut into this, it’s this all the way through, you know? It’s not just paint on the outside. I like that, I like how pure it is. I think the fact that I started to identify as an artist while I was going to Warren Wilson, which is super environmentally-oriented, has something to do with this. I started when I was at a place with school where I was mad at everyone. I needed some outlet, some way to rebel. In some ways I’ll admit I chose plastic out of some sort of resentful cynicism. And my professors were like, “Plastic! Not here. There are too many fumes and too much waste. Why would you want to do that?” So in classic art student style I was invigorated by their discouragement.
Adele: Where do you find your plastic? How did you accumulate all of this?
Selena: I buy the two-part epoxy resin in bulk online and for the found stuff I go to Goodwill like, twice a week. When I was in Asheville, they have this really awesome Goodwill Outlet. It’s good for getting artistically inspired because it’s all these random objects thrown in bins, completely decontextualized. If you look at it with a visual perspective you can come up with a lot of stuff. I wonder if a lot of the inspiration for these things can be attributed to those bins.
Adele: What are some of your favorite things that you have found and why?



Selena: Well, I showed you all the teeth. I found a box of a full set of children’s teeth mixed in the Goodwill Outlet bins with a bunch of trash and toys and other stuff that I was interested in.
Adele: The teeth are so disturbing and precious.
Selena: Yeah. There’s so much shit like that in there. Like, a jacket with really big dark stains on it and you’re like, “is this blood?” Along with a half-eaten bag of chips floating around in there. My favorite part of the bins, as far as adding content to my resin, are the object bins, the miscellaneous bins. If you scoot everything aside, there’s the weird detritus underneath. That’s where I found the baby teeth. That’s the good stuff.
Ava: Sometimes it’s hard to get to the bottom.
Selena: No one else wants that shit. Everyone is looking for something good for their home—
Adele: —a Brita filter.
Selena: [laughs] Then the cashiers are confused because I am paying for trash by the pound, all these broken toys. But I’m glad that it’s not in the actual trash and that I have access to it.



Adele: What are you excited about? It can be anything.
Selena: I bought a Macbook and I want to start making music. I think I’m coming to a point where I don’t want to base my practice around accumulation anymore. I’m gonna purge all this shit. Everything in my life—I try the extreme on one side and then the extreme on the other side and then I come to a happy medium. I’ve been in this extreme of having all this super bright plastic shit for a while, like a couple years, and I feel a minimalism wave coming on.
Adele: Cool! Yeah, music takes up megabytes, not physical space.
Selena: I’m excited to be going into that zone.
Adele: Are you going to make any instruments? Like, digitally?
Selena: No, I think I might get a little recorder and record sounds and sample things. But yeah, I am not gonna make more physical objects. I’m going to make music, and clean this out [gestures to studio].
Ava: And you’re going to Japan this year?
Selena: Yeah, and going to Japan.