Linda, 2011, Pencil and watercolor on paper, 9” x 7”
Briefly describe the work you do.
My creative activity rests on the idea of interconnection as an ecological and spiritual reality. I engage in artmaking, in part, as a form of spiritual practice – attempting to touch the fundamental. Often taking the form of delicate drawings and watercolors, as well as multi-media installations, my work presents windows through which to glimpse the substance of emptiness, the significance of the commonplace, the warmth of the familiar. The everyday is the sacred.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in Wisconsin and Iowa with one foot in the city and one in the country. My imagery reflects the Midwest. The near-absence of the prairie and indigenous peoples in Iowa has always been poignant for me. When I was still a child probably I became
vividly affected by notions of loss and a desire to memorialize. I think this sadness, and it’s companion – celebration, inform my work today. Also, my parents are both artists and activists, so I was always surrounded by poetry, music and other art, and I was given a broad education that included aspects of botany, ecology and social justice issues. These things relate to old values and a “wakefulness” that goes back to Whitman, Thoreau and the Buddha.
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 like traditional notions of being in the studio, because I feel like nowadays there is a mild stigma attached to being alone, or people try to avoid it. Sitting alone and making art and enjoying the isolation is a beautiful experience, and I think everyone should do it more.Also, I don’t have a lot of time in the studio, working to make ends meet in New York. So, sometimes it’s finding things on the street on my way home that I want to incorporate into a work, or writing in my notebook or just walking in the park. And these things are critical to my practice. So, the studio really bleeds out into everyday life, just like Buddhist practice – it’s all one practice, all the time.
Untitled, 2014, pencil and watercolor on paper, 16” x 21”
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 the artist has become less specialized than she may have been historically, she learns more of a diversity of skills. For me, this has included learning how to work with my hands in a broad variety of ways, as well as with technology. Also, I did not necessarily anticipate being such a collector of ephemera. Collecting has really become important to my practice. These physical objects as well as ideas or texts are then reinterpreted or re- presented in my work.
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 wish I had the luxury to make those decisions, but I’ve always been someone who has to work a day job (or two). I love working in the morning though. And working at night and listening to music all by myslef and taking a break to dance.
Untitled, 2013, pencil and watercolor on paper, 12” x 9”
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
It has broadened. My perspective has broadened. I’ve been able to define what I’m interested in better. I think it has matured (now I’m a teenager in art years – ha). I have experimented a lot in the last five years, and I feel some of these explorations have come full circle now and are maturing. I’m still really interested in people, craft and awkwardness – which I feel really conveys the human condition.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Everyone has impacted my work. My parents and family have been crucial, as well as all my teachers and peers. People are important, but cultures are probably more important. Visionary and folk artists make some of the best, most lively work that exists. Music has had a strong influence on me, most notably Irish and American traditional music, early American blues and hardcore/punk. I have a romantic interest in a lot of pop icons of art, literature and music – mostly from the past. I’m really drawn to those who seem to yearn for experience, yearn to touch God, or the sacred, yearn to touch the fundamental or the unseen (the magic and mystery of the world). Like Kerouac wrote, “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time [who] burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles.” Writers and artists that have influenced me include Whitman, Thoreau, Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Wendell Berry, Shunryu Suzuki – William Blake, Alice Neel, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Ann Hamilton, Tim Gardner.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would be a kindergarten teacher or work professionally on issues of poverty or environmental advocacy. There are so many good uses of one’s time.
Aaron Blake Bos-Wahl was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in both Wisconsin and Iowa. He received a BFA in painting and a BA in English from the University of Iowa, and he earned his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010. He has taught art at Washington University in St. Louis and Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA. Currently, he lives and works in Queens, NY. His work has been shown at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France and will comprise a solo exhibition in 2015 at The Virginia M. & Edward Juergensen Gallery at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, New York.
Detail: Untitled (Kwan Yin), 2014, photographic print, earth and shelf, 5 1⁄2’ x 12” x 6”
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.