Briefly describe the work you do.
My work centers on drawing. Sometimes paint gets involved. I primarily work on paper so I’ve also described them as works on paper. I explore ideas and concerns that emerge from my day to day experience through the language of abstraction.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My family has always been supportive of my obsession with drawing and art. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate that my parents, a professional fundraiser and a nurse, never tried to steer me toward a “safer” path. They would patiently listen to my living room lectures about art being my calling and not just a hobby. I grew up in an environment that emphasized anything was possible if you “worked hard and worked smart.”
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.”
I do have a dedicated studio space where I can be found “toiling away alone” in a more traditional sense. It helps me reach a more focused mental space. Just as important, however, is always having a pen and a small notebook nearby. Preferably in my pocket. A bus, a restaurant, a library, a museum, a sofa, or a bathroom can become my studio. New environments can shake loose ideas and solutions I sometimes overlook when my familiar workspace unconsciously lulls me into a routine way of thinking.
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?
As a kid, my understanding of being an artist was pretty straightforward: make something, show people, and hopefully they like it. I didn’t anticipate how complicated this equation can become. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit that I spend much more time scrutinizing what I’m creating than I do actually making it. “Why am I going in this direction? Should I continue or change course? Who is my intended audience? Who am I trying to please? Should I care? How does this affect what I’m creating?” When I began, I had no idea this “artist as analyst” role would be such a central and vital aspect of my art practice.
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’m prefer working at night between 9pm and 2am. I can adjust when necessary but it’s easier for me to focus when the rest of the world is asleep.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My current body of work explores repetition and pattern. It started in 2008 with cut-paper pieces, evolved into paintings and photo manipulations, and currently employs more traditional drawing media. The thematic underpinnings have remained pretty constant while the material elements have taken more of a journey. I occasionally wandering off in a different direction but in the end I always return to this body of work.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I’ve definitely benefited from the guidance and example of other visual artists like John Feagler, Wendell Arneson, John Saurer, Liz Miller, Brian Frink, Bart Vargas, and David Rathman. I also cannot overstate impact of music and its importance to my creative process. It’s propels me forward and patches up my wounds when I fall on my face. A day without listening to music is an incomplete day.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I need to make things with my hands. I can’t realistically imagine being satisfied in an occupation where I’m not creating something. I’ve had a variety of jobs to pay the bills but always maintain the fact that being an artist is my career and life path.
(b. 1981) Aaron Olson-Reiners spent most of his early years in Stillwater, Minnesota. He earned a BA in studio art from St. Olaf College in 2004 and has called the Twin Cities home since 2005. Aaron lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife and daughter. “My work captures and reinterprets details I notice in my daily routine. I elaborate these bits of memory and distill their essential qualities into an image.”
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.