Briefly describe the work you do.
Though the medium varies, my work is rooted in the utilization of scavenged materials, ranging from appropriated photography to scrap wood found in the alleyways of my neighborhood in Chicago. Recently my subject matter has been focused on different iterations of landscape and how it can be activated in a personal, domestic environment. My most recent body of work After Ansel consists of small-scale sculpture, prints and installations that use material sourced from an Ansel Adams coffee table book, which are copied, layered and cropped in an effort to break down and re-appropriate an esteemed subject.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama and moved to the city after high school to pursue a career in the arts. I left myself open to being involved in the arts in different roles—everything ranging from art-maker to arts administrator—but living in Chicago has undeniably influenced my way of working, how I get my materials and how I interact with other artists. Since moving to the city, I’ve found that I am much more reliant on other artists and organizations, and my work through Autotelic has dramatically impacted how I view artists’ roles in the community. My interest in domesticity is most likely due to my role as a mother and my habit of nesting as a remedy for anxiety. The landscapes are an outlet for me to make tangible a subject that often feels so vast and untouchable.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My partner Evan and I established a community art space in 2010 called Autotelic, which started out as a creative venue where we could make work, exhibit and host workshops and multi-disciplinary events. Since then it’s evolved into a visual arts studio where ten of us share an open-layout storefront. Our philosophy about studio practice is very community-oriented because I believe relying on other artists and organizations for support and feedback is essential to filling the gap between making stuff and making stuff that people can really get behind. Staying attuned to what’s going on in other artists’ practices is a really good way to hold yourself accountable and keep your work in line with contemporary theory. It goes without saying that there are a lot of benefits to working in a community setting, like learning new techniques and getting exposure to collectors and curators who visit the studios. I see studio time as a very fluid opportunity for give and take.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I started making work I don’t think I ever saw myself “being an artist” full-time, and I’m not sure now I would say that I’m an artist playing different roles. It would probably be more accurate to say I’m a creative person that sees making as an important cultural outlet and I care about how that product lives in the public forum. I see “being an artist” as a very multi-faceted role with a fluid definition, but I think that just having an activated life can inform your practice and work in unseen ways. I play many roles as a mother, a maker, a partner, an advocate and a facilitator, and I wouldn’t necessarily say my creative practice has influenced those things. It’s more likely the other way around.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I tend to work better in the morning but I always end up heading to the studio after my son is down for the night. I have a more longterm approach to making that has a swift turn around, and I tend to make a lot of notes so my sketchbook is primarily vague writing with very little context. Those broad ideas stew for a while and then I’ll come across a material or opportunity that suits a concept—that’s when I try to schedule time to execute a project, which is generally completed in a few days.
I think my lack of space and time keeps my portfolio pretty tight, so I’m not one of those people that has a studio overflowing with works in progress. It’s mostly raw materials and books. I try to sit in my studio for at least an hour every other day or so, which helps keep the archive of materials and ideas accessible and fresh in my mind. Then when I come up with something I think is clever enough, I try to churn it out before I second guess the idea or forget about it.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I graduated from Columbia College in 2011 but I only had a studio there for one semester, so I mostly worked out of my apartment and was trying to paint a lot. I never really took to painting as a medium because I am not so interested in the autonomy of mark-making, and I’m honestly not very good at it. I far prefer to use materials that have already served a purpose or existed in some other form, and that seems to serve my ideas about appropriation and function in a meaningful way.
I have always had an interest in wood, collage and collecting, but those elements have only recently started to become a big part of what I make. Now I am starting to hone down on the techniques and materials so the work is becoming more consistent in theme and execution. I still feel that I’m learning a lot of new techniques (most recently casting and mold-making) and deciding what kind of work I like and why, so in that sense my practice is still very much the same.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My father is a woodworker and he has had a big impact on my confidence working with wood. He’s contributed a lot of material, tools and insight into this medium and I credit a lot of my interest in woodworking to him. His philosophy on creativity and how people influence each other has also had a made an impression on my approach to making and interacting with other artists.
My partner Evan is a big influence as well, both personally and professionally. He introduced me to the concept of working in an “autotelic” mindset we co-founded the studio together. Evan is constantly encouraging me to strive for a higher quality of work and challenging my theory. His work is much more precise and calculated than mine, but his commitment to reaching a polished end product has really affected how I approach my materials, and he continues to push me to take the work beyond what is easy or comfortable. His support has been essential to my practice and I owe him a great deal for his commitment and positivity.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
My jobs outside of my creative practice are already pretty well suited to my interests. If I’m not actively making something in my studio I want my work to still be contributing to the arts community and artists somehow, ideally in the nonprofit sector dealing directly with artists or arts administrators. I currently work at Chicago Artists Coalition as the Community Content Manager for Chicago Artists Resource, a nonprofit organization and artists resource website. I think working for an organization like CAC allows me to be passionate about my job because I can see and feel the impact of its work on the creative community. If my job has a mission I can really get behind, I know I’ll be happy there.
ANDI CRIST was born in Birmingham, Alabama and received her BFA from Columbia College Chicago in 2011. She is the co-founder of Autotelic, a fiscally sponsored nonprofit community studio located in Logan Square. Crist’s furniture and works on paper are conceptually rooted in themes of re-purposing and taming “vastness” into more intimate, tangible structures that relate to the body and familiarity. An interest in home furnishings comes from a personal history of nesting as a remedy for anxiety. Recent works references domestic themes such as furniture, organizing and traditional craftwork through site-specific installations, multiples and small-scale sculpture.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.