Briefly describe the work you do.
As a way to begin my recent series of paintings, I pour thin acrylic paint onto drafting plastic. I carefully cut out the shapes where the dried paint has pooled and use them as collage elements. The forms I discover briefly coalesce into monsters and cartoon characters, only to dissolve again into pigment, binder and surface. The uniquely human tendency to see objects or figures in clouds and tea leaves is what I explore in my work. I paint on a variety of surfaces, mining content from the chance discovery of shapes.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in making art. I grew up in Pittsburgh PA, the oldest of two kids in a middle class Jewish family. I spent a lot of time wandering the exhibits at Carnegie Museum of Art and the natural history museum. As a teenager, I took art classes at nearby Carnegie Mellon U. Pittsburgh is a gritty, hilly, industrial city on the river, far from an expansive horizon or the ocean. I think that had an effect on the way I use space. Four years in Arizona shortly after college exposed me to the very different aesthetic of West Coast/LA. The narrative-based content and high key color of California in the 70s and 80s resonated with me and changed my art quite a bit. I got my MFA from Mass College of Art and Design in Boston where I now live.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I probably spend equal or more time online researching opportunities and writing than anything. But I don’t feel like I am really working unless I am physically in my studio! Lately my studio practice has involved using commercially printed or laser cut elements. The notion of public art is very appealing to me, and lately I have been working on projects that could survive out of doors.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I discovered soon after college that I liked to teach and that it was a way for me to support my art practice. I never taught in a public school, but I have been an adjunct college teacher and also have taught adults in museums and art centers for most of my career. In 2010, I started working for GOLDEN Paints as a technical consultant. My job is to introduce groups of people to their line of products and demonstrate how to use them.
I have also been an arts administrator, probably as an outgrowth of teaching. I love the behind-the-scenes of how events work. I was the Education Director of a small local art center in my area for seven years, and currently I lead public art initiatives in my town. I am a parent, and of course, I did not imagine how difficult it would be to have an art career and also be a mom.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I try to be in the studio as often as I can. I tend to be a morning person, so that is the best time for me to work. An art practice is like working out – if you skip it too many days, it becomes harder and harder to get back into it.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
From 2008 to 2013, my work featured a vocabulary of shapes derived from the tiny doodles I found festooning my son’s high school notebooks. I copied the doodles onto transparencies and projected them onto my canvases. The larger projections reveal eccentric edges and turn the otherwise insignificant into something which commands attention. The doodle shapes could be cryptograms, geometric diagrams, hieroglyphs or pictographs from another civilization. At their heart, however, they are very human marks, not necessarily elegant and usually offhand. My recent work uses paint spills as a starting point, so it still grows from random marks and shapes.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Artists who inspire me, like Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, and Judy Pfaff, for example, make me push myself and be braver in the studio. My artist friends and family help to keep me sane and give me reality checks.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist?
I have always believed it is important to give back and leave the world beter somehow. Teaching has been my main way of doing this. It complements the studio practice which can be rather isolating. I also learn a ton from my students.
Adria Arch lives in Arlington, MA and her studio is located in Lowell, MA. She studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Carnegie Mellon University. She received an MFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Adria has taught widely in the Boston area.
Adria’s work was recently featured in solo exhibitions at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, MA, the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA, and Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Her work is in the collections of the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Fidelity Investments, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and the Boston Public Library.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.