Briefly describe the work you do.
I’m primarily a pleasure artist, though perhaps a pensive one. In all of the whimsy, the meaning is wholehearted. So even that which is in jest is also genuine. The bodies of work vary in process and form, but there are common aesthetic and conceptual threads. The media ranges from drawing and mixed media on paper to sculpture and installation often utilizing manipulated everyday and upcycled materials.
The recent drawings are mainly narratives. Both sweet and sad, they focus on the search for identity and belonging. Addressing the security and vulnerability of connection, they straddle the moment when aloneness is broken. The characters are caught in sometimes tragic scenarios in which their desire and hope trumps the fear or anticipation of pain.
The installation work also spawns from the concepts of identity and belonging, but through nesting, domesticity, and home. It stems from how we might identify ourselves through collection, ritual, and routine. Highlighting the importance of place as a definitive component of self.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was raised to value exploration, curiosity, and innovation. I was also not a stranger to change. Adaptation has been a helpful tool for survival and forward motion. I’m not too inconvenienced by a change in plans. I improvise often.
I was an introverted kid. Though outgoing, I’m still fairly introverted now. I value my solitude and insular forms of entertainment. Those pastimes have included drawing and other forms of crafting in a fairly prominent way for a long time. Going to school for art was a natural trajectory. My emphasis in studio art was printmaking, which I employed most heavily in undergrad. I was drawn to the novelty of process. I still cherish process, but it now manifests itself in an interdisciplinary way.
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 studio practices transition in tandem with a fluctuating lifestyle. I try to adjust the work to reflect where I am at any given time. I can’t say any of my rituals are particularly traditional nor particularly curious. Likely they fall somewhere in between. Studio time is typically split between stretches of quiet incubation and marathons of execution. A good deal of energy goes into idea development. Making can feel simple in comparison to refining a foundation for the next new thing. I try to keep a sketchbook on hand always. Like having one foot in the studio. When I have my hands in the thing that will be a finished product it is a little different. If I’m installing, I do as much as I can at the space. It differs with each venue. But if conditions allow, I immerse myself entirely in the install during those stretches of time. If I’m working on a drawing or portable work of any kind and I know where I am going with it, I tend to want to work through to completion as quickly as possible.
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?
I’m not sure anymore what it was I first had envisioned when I set about on this escapade. Nor do I recall if I had foreseen what kind of artist I might be. I do make an effort to surprise and reinvent myself though. It’s a self-directed metamorphosis from which various roles have emerged. Storyteller. Collector. Nester. And all roles have been honest in life and art. Being an artist is a convenient excuse to explore eccentricities you might otherwise keep contained.
In the beginning, it is also unlikely I had thought thoroughly about the non studio aspects of being an artist. The business side of things is a challenging venture. Marketing and promotion is tough. I have moxy, but I never saw myself as having enough for that. I’ve learned to embrace a certain level of shamelessness. Because the things I do are made to be shared. To be seen. To be enjoyed by others.
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?
In general, the evening hours are my preference and my most fruitful. It’s quiet and private with fewer interruptions and distractions. And I get surges of late night energy. But it depends a great deal on what my schedule allows. Overall, I take what I can get. And those windows of time vary. It also depends on what stage the work is in. If I am working toward a predetermined product, then the time matters less. If I am still working out the process or the concept, I need more peace.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Storytelling has become a focus. I’m using more representational imagery. I’m less apprehensive to make work that might at first glance appear too precious, sweet, or sentimental. Titles and text have become more vital components. It is an opportunity to give the viewer extra insight or shift the context. In the case of the narratives they are usually a prologue or epilogue to the story. Overall, there is a level of expressiveness, intense energy, and awkward play that have been present in almost everything for a long time. But the nuances are constantly shifting. I change media, format, and process fairly often.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
As far as friends and family, where their influence starts and stops would be a hard line to draw. But I know I owe a great deal to all those past and present players. I am constantly seeking their insight. It is important to have extra eyes. And getting feedback from people who know me is invaluable. It helps with self awareness and forces a certain amount of objectivity.
I have my pool of favorite artists. Lygia Clark. Jessica Stockholder. Erwin Wurm. Sophie Calle. There are many others, but those sit high on my list. So many influences not necessarily author specific, but objects or images that resonate. Children’s books. Old cartoons. Kitschy animal portraiture. Mid century dinnerware patterns. I also love film. Noir to contemporary cerebral; Billy Wilder to Spike Jonze. I also binge watch tv series. So undoubtedly that stuff seeps in.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I also teach art in higher education. I suppose that isn’t a hypothetical, but I love it. It has been a huge influence on me as an artist. I’m given the opportunity to share my passion with a group of people who are often similarly passionate. It’s fabulously enriching in a multitude of ways. And it is one scenario in which my potent opinions and brutal honesty are called for. I wouldn’t want to give it up any more than I would want to give up being an artist. Teaching has taught me a ton. I’ve also intermittently worked as a caretaker and companion to the elderly and disabled. While taxing, it satisfied a need to nurture. Both in caretaking and the classroom, it is about putting the needs of someone else first. And I enjoy that role.
Being involved in animal rescue would be great. Art therapy is something I have also considered. Or some other branch of social psychology. Academic writing would be fun. Probably centering on art theory and education. Or perhaps freelance lover letter writing.
Made in the midwest, Christina Gregor was born in Park Ridge, IL in 1982. In 2004, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art with an emphasis in printmaking from Webster University in Webster Groves, MO. Gregor went on to complete her Master of Fine Arts in studio art from Northern Illinois University (Dekalb, IL) in 2007. She has since continued making things, exhibiting nationally, and teaching studio arts at the college level. She currently lives and works in St. Louis, MO.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.