Briefly describe the work that you do.
Using a wide variety of materials and processes I create images and objects dealing with the concepts of healing and nourishing oneself. This often includes parallel explorations of cataloguing a multi-faceted and changing identity. Recently I’ve become more interesting in creating experiential exhibitions that include specific food and drinks for the viewers to consume while observing the work.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
I’m lucky to have been raised in a creative household. Both of my parents studied art and always encouraged me to be creative when they recognized my interest. So I really always intended on becoming an artist, but as a child interested in everything, I always specified, “ artist plus environmental scientist” or “artist plus fashion designer” or “artist plus writer.” It never occurred to me to not become an artist, and I’ve kept the mindset that I can pursue art in addition to other endeavors.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My family has had a surprisingly large impact on my work, but I’ve actually only come to this realization in hindsight over the years. My extended family can be categorized into three career types: creative, health care, and teaching, so in addition to creative predilection, I have a strong concern for others in my blood. However, depression also affects many of my family members, so I’m fascinated by the struggle and balance of caring for others, but at times being less able to care for oneself. We’re also a family of wanderers, each of us bucking the homestead tradition and venturing out on our own paths. So all of these qualities that I share with my family actually show up in my work, albeit subtly. All of the ideas I choose to present as universal and accessible concepts (self-reparation, self-sustenance, faceted and changing identities) stem from my personal experiences, who I am as a person, and how I interpret the world around me.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I am interested in the idea of a self-sustaining entity, and focus on depicting the specific elements of self-reparation, nourishment, and identity within this overarching theme. I consider healing to be a process of continuous changes, and an integral part of developing ones identity through the psychological shedding of skins, as each person decides which facets and characteristics of their identity they want to discard and which they want to nourish. Therefore skin, both as a physical material and psychological symbol, is an important concept in my work. Therefore I choose materials that look like skin or can function as a skin—through holding contents or covering a surface—including silk organza, handmade paper and grapefruit skins. Because many of these materials are delicate, I often have to use delicate processes, most notably hand-sewing, which is found throughout much of my work. To address the concept of nourishment, I often incorporate sensorial materials that appeal to the viewer’s sense of smell or taste, or are recognized as food substances. These have included a variety of grapefruit edibles, spices, flour, and milk.
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?
I am motivated by curiosity. I have a hard time planning my pieces because I prefer to allow a rigorous practice of trial and error, sample-making, and experimentation dictate the direction of my work. Materials are very important to me, and I love pushing their physical boundaries to discover new and exciting ways of working with them. I also have to admit that I do somewhat “keep up with the Joneses.” All of my friends are talented artists, so whenever they accomplish something, I tend to spend more time looking for new opportunities. We all push each other to be better artists.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Wolfgang Laib, Ann Hamilton, Do-Ho Suh, Janine Antoni, Susie MacMurray, Berlinde de Bruyckere, Robert Ryman, Susan Rothenberg, Kiki Smith, Zarina, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Egon Schiele, Joseph Beuys, and Lucian Freud. I also love looking at Native American art and objects, historical medical and anatomy illustrations, and researching Scythian art and culture.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Cooking, baking and eating are some of my favorites. Also yoga, hiking, internet-browsing, drinking with friends, making excuses to avoid cleaning, traveling, making Vietnamese coffee, and playing with my cat.
Skye Livingston was born and raised in Dallas, TX. She completed her BFA in 2012 at the Kansas City Art Institute where she double majored in Fiber and Art History. She has received several awards for her work including Best of Show in the Kansas City Art Institute BFA Exhibition, an award juried by the director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum Julián Zugazagoitia, and internationally renowned artist Andres Serrano. She has exhibited in group shows nationwide, completed several solo and two-person shows, and has participated in the Grin City Emerging Artist Residency and the Urban Culture Project studio residency program. At the moment, she lives and works in Kansas City.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.