Briefly describe the work you do.
I make work that investigates the colors of the sky; repositioning them in relation to each other and removing them from their natural site in order to find new truths about how these colors function in our lives. In the course of this work I’ve experimented with a number of different media including photography, painting, sewing flags, dyeing fabric and installing it as wallpaper, quilting and collage.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up outside of Boston and was lucky enough to have a high school with a lot of art programs. In my senior year alone I took AP art, ceramics, darkroom photography, directing for the stage and an independent study in multi-media/sculpture. It was kind of a no-brainer for me to end up in art school. The fibers department at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore) was everything I wanted in an education: technical expertise, social history through the history of textiles, and women’s studies as much of textile history predominantly follows the female experience. The most important thing I gained, however, was a new way of looking at the world- with metaphor and visual poetry. All of these things- history, politics, skill and concept- go into the way I make art. I see my work as another way to explore learning and teaching. I always hope that people who view/engage with my work come away with an even minute change in their perspective toward the world.
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.”
Coming to identify as a “studio artist” has been as weird as coming to terms with becoming an “adult.” The first difference I see between my practice and long-held stereotypes of the solitary artist is that I’m almost never alone. I may have a studio in my home but I mostly work at the local art center where I teach and am currently a resident artist. Within this community I’m able to get conceptual and technical feedback almost constantly, which has been absolutely invaluable to the caliber of my work. It has also lead me to collaborate frequently: collaborations make me reconsider everything about my work and process and stretch in ways I never would on my own. For me, being a studio artist has also meant finding a way to balance making money and making art. The obvious (and stable) answer would be to get a “real” job that would pay me a fixed income at regular intervals. However, I find that freelance sewing and screen printing allow me to pay the bills while exercising my skills and affording me the time to stew on my own work. It also means that my schedule is flexible which is great when inspiration strikes at odd hours of the day or night.
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’ve found myself curating quite a bit in the past two years, which I didn’t see coming. In 2013 I co-founded a project called Craft/Work which is an interactive community conversation that explores the boundaries between fine art and craft. So far Craft/Work has included six artist talks with accompanying workshops and a curated gallery exhibition here in Chicago. I love that my own questioning has lead to a larger set of conversations that really delve into this complicated topic. We’re in the process of getting a full website up and are planning new Craft/Work events for the upcoming year.
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 definitely don’t get as much time to make my own work as I would like. The downside of working in a public studio is that you’re always available for conversations and it’s easy to get pulled away. Therefore, and against all my own desires, I’ve found that I get the most work done between 8:30 and 10am… before anyone else gets in. I like to set that time aside for me to make whatever I want to make right then. Sometimes it’s art or sometimes it’s a new dress. But if I force myself to get up that early I get to have that time as a gift.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Oh man, my work has completely changed over the last five years. I began my current body of work in 2013 and pretty much everything I’ve made since then has been in this new vein. It’s been nice, actually. I felt really untethered after college. I made a series of pieces that, while being individually successful, didn’t relate to each other almost at all. My portfolio looked like it had been created by ten different people. Since 2013 I’ve been allowing myself to follow each piece onto the next logical experimentation and have ended up with a much more cohesive collection. Sometimes the amount of difference between my current and my past work worries me a little. But in the end, my motivations and work habits have remained the same. I have a feeling that when I look back at it in like 50 years it will all make sense.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Absolutely! I am constantly inspired by myriad sources. Most recently I’ve been looking at a lot of abstract expressionist paintings, especially the color-theory work of Josef Albers which has directly impacted my own pieces. I’ve also been scouring the internet for visually dynamic info graphics and other fascinating ways of conveying data.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I have a feeling it’s going to have to be all arts-related for me, even in the future. (I can’t even make coffee.) I’d love to teach at the college level or get involved in an arts organization as an administrator or project manager. There was a hot second in college when I thought I’d become a constitutional scholar but I think that ship may have passed.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.