Briefly describe the work do you do.
My studio practice is pretty inclusive, actually. Sometimes it seems that people only want dresses from me, and that body of work tends to get pushed to the forefront. So while I DO make dresses out of romance novels, I also draw and paint both traditionally and digitally, sculpt, and sew. My work definitely encompasses a lot of different mediums and styles, and while it makes it difficult to efficiently and concisely summarize in an elevator pitch, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
I think I was always an artist in some way, regardless of whether I called myself one or not. When I was little, I was very attracted to the art of storytelling and that consumed much of my childhood activities, whether that attraction was executed in drawing, writing or acting stories out with Barbies and My Little Ponies. Deciding to officially pursue an art degree my senior year of high school was just a formality.
I also think at some point you have to stop becoming an artist and just BE an artist. It’s a scary thing. A lot of us in this field tend to give in to self-doubt, but at some point you just have to take the plunge. It’s been a gradual process for me where I’ve had to slowly build my confidence until the label “artist” is one I’m comfortable with.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I don’t think my background is that interesting; it’s pretty white bread. I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, went to Catholic school, got good grades, went to college, met a boy, fell in love, went to grad school with said boy and later married him. And then we got a dog.
I do think I had a somewhat lonely childhood, because I was that weird geeky book-loving kid, and that shows up in my work. My art is both an escape and a way to connect with others. I get to build my own isolated world in a way, which has always been a really fascinating and attractive concept for me. But at the same time, my art forces me to enter the real world because if a girl doesn’t want to starve to death or live in a cardboard box, she has to talk to people and make opportunities for herself.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
One of my main concerns is always accessibility. I don’t think art has to be elitist to be “good”; it can have really strong conceptual content, but can be readable and enjoyed on a purely visual level as well. The artist Amy Caterina once told me that you have to seduce the viewer; you want to get your message across, and no one is going to pay attention to you if you try to go over their head and immediately make them feel dumb. You have to make it fun, and that idea has really stuck with me. My dresses, for instance, run a gamut of ideas. They speak about the helplessness of women in a culture that bases their power on their appearances; they criticize the beauty and fashion industries, as well as deconstruct myths about love, and what it means to be female. They also are a way for me to construct my own folklore about women in my own life, and are a vehicle for me to explore my own personal history. But at face value, they are just really beautiful dresses, and I don’t get offended if people just want to enjoy them for that.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
There are so many things that motivate me in my studio!
One thing is not ever having enough time in there- that probably sounds discouraging, but it means there is always something on the back burner that I want to make. Teaching Monday through Thursday means there are times that I stand in the doorway of my studio and just stare longingly at all the half finished pieces and beautiful empty canvases.
Empty canvases are a great motivator. They’re just so temptingly blank and there’s that urge to fill. I enthusiastically start a piece and then I make a mistake and the enthusiasm dies. But mistakes also keep me coming back; being a perfectionist means that those errors weigh very heavily on my mind.
I also just really enjoy the alone time. So many demands are made on my time during the week, it’s a luxury to have a day where you explore nothing but your own thoughts. I definitely blast Pandora, sing aloud at the top of my lungs and dance; it’s this really great cathartic experience.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Nick Cave, Mariko Mori, Cindy Sherman, Yayoi Kusama, Yoko Ono. I just saw this great interview with Chris Uphues and I definitely fell a little bit in artist crush love. My husband and I own one of his pieces, and I don’t know, it’s just magical.
My husband is my biggest influence; with 2 artists under one room, it just happens. We steal from each other all the time, and there are definitely times where our respective color palettes show up in each other’s work. He’s also a great motivator, because there’s always a competitive underlining. You just spent 8 hours in the studio? I’m going to spend 10 tomorrow.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I love going on roller coasters, laser tagging and roller skating; I don’t get to do enough of any of those activities. My husband and I are somewhat catching up on the TV we missed during our 3 years of grad school, so we are usually bingeing on some show. Seriously, Breaking Bad was pretty much the best thing ever.
I love to read, and I enjoy the domesticity of being at home with my husband and our hyperactive dog. It sounds lame, but I feel like I’m never at home, so being there is a luxury in a way.
Carrie Ann Schumacher is a multi-media artist living and working in Chicago. She was born in 1986. Her B.F.A. in Digital Media was received from Elmhurst College in 2008. Subsequent to that she attended Northern Illinois University, where she received her M.F.A. in Painting in 2012. She is currently on the faculty at Kishwaukee College, where she teaches Computer Art, Introduction to Visual Arts, and Digital Imaging.
Recent group exhibitions include The Personal is Political: The Transformative Power of Women’s Art at the Koehnline Museum of Art, Des Plaines, Illinois, and Consumer Culture at Woman-Made Gallery, Chicago, Illinois. She has four solo shows next year, starting in January at Moraine Valley College In Cicero, Illinois.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.