Sunday, November 30, 2008

Art Space Talk: Christina Massey

Christina Massey was born and raised in Northern California where she studied painting and printmaking becoming an award-winning graduate before moving to New York City to pursue her Art career. Described by some as a Neo Conceptualist, her work often uses humor and theatrics to involve the viewer in anti-establishment rhetoric through the use of word play in her titles.

Massey has produced multiple series of works including everything from conceptual abstract paintings to public interactive works negating the gallery completely. Works, though often making a statement about Art as a whole, revolve around the subject of painting in particular through her process and use of materials. The installation process itself is often a political commentary more geared toward the non-art educated viewer. Donations are often made to various charities through her sales.
Wrinkled 14, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 34" W x 28" H x 3" D, 2006.

Brian Sherwin: Christina, you studied at London Metropolitan University and at California State University. Can you briefly tell us about your academic background and how it impacted you as an artist? For example, did you have any influential instructors? Was art school a positive or negative experience?

Christina Massey: College for me was a very positive experience, but it was my decision to minor in Theater Set Design that impacted me as an Artist more than any Art Course or professor did. Working in the Theater Department taught me to think on a larger scale, to think about the power of language and audience participation. More importantly, this allowed me to step out of the shoes of an Artist so to speak, and view the Art Department from another point of view.

BS: In your work you utilize humor and theatrics to involve the viewer in anti-establishment rhetoric through the use of word play in your titles. Can you discuss this and perhaps describe some of the thoughts and motives that inspire you to create art as you do?

CM: That "ah ha!" moment when a viewer makes a connection with the work is what makes me feel successful as an Artist. I love to exhibit in spaces where a more diverse audience than the typical gallery-goer crowd gets to see and interact with the work. I strive to reach a wide audience and if that connection is made through a smile, an "oh I get it" moment, even better. It's those moments that inspire me to create the work I do.

Wrinkled 39, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 12" W x 12" H x 3" D, 2008

BS: Originally you focused more on figurative abstraction with an interest in futurism, correct? Eventually you broke from that path and started to create flesh-like abstract paintings instead. You titled that series the Dead Series. I understand that the Dead Series was the catalyst for your current work. Can you go into further detail about that? What spurred your change in direction?

CM: Yes, much of my early work was figurative. Ironically, the figures were typically trying to escape their frames. The "Dead Paintings" series was a break through in terms of not doing what was expected of me. Though the desire to change my style and direction was already there, after 9/11 like many people, I rethought what direction and path I wanted to take my life and work.

BS: Tell us more about the social implications reflected within the context of your work. What are the specific messages that you strive to convey to viewers when they observe your art?

CM: Different installations will focus around different social aspects, but always using those general social observances to demonstrate and relate them to those of the Art World. Each installation, though different in theme, always revolves around the concept of connection as base. I use painting as a process to communicate and de-construct the "us" and "them;" the artist: dealer, art educated and not, 3D artist: 2D artist, new and old. This has been addressed through traditionally hung wall paintings to large installations, always using the same format of painting to communicate the conceptual process.
Wrinkled 22, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 16" W x 16" H, 2007.
BS: Tell us more about your process… perhaps you can select a piece and discuss how it came into being as far as the materials and methods that you utilized? For example, do you work intuitively or do you prefer a strict work ethic when focusing on the creative process?

CM: My work is very constructive/deconstructive. I create work intuitively, always in the mind set that the first approach will be the end result, though this is not often the case. Somewhere in the middle of the process of creating the work, I'll get an idea to do something completely different. The work that had initially seemed completed, I see through a new set of eyes how that work could be used more powerfully in another form, even if this means "destroying" the original work.
For example, the "Meat Market" series was entirely constructed out of previous paintings. The fact that those paintings had to be "killed" in order to make the installation only enhanced the overall concept, making it stronger than the paintings had stood previously alone.

BS: You have been described as a Neo Conceptualist. What are your thoughts on that and art world labels in general? Do you embrace titles, labels, and so on… or do you try to avoid being pinned down to any specific box, so to speak?

CM: I prefer to stay in that "gray" area that defies any particular label. My work is somewhere between painting and sculpture, craft and fine art, abstract and representational. As long as I can continue to surprise people with new work and not become predictable, people can label my work however they like.
Wrinkled 17, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2006.

BS: Speaking of the art world, what are the specific concerns that you have about the art world at this time?

CM: One concern is that much of the Art that gets the most attention is all drawn from the same sources. Diversification is a new concept to the Art World, and one that I feel needs to continue to grow. Not simply in terms of gender and race, but also from various income levels and educational backgrounds.

BS: I understand that you have been an advocate for a few charities and have used your work as a vehicle for raising funds, so to speak. In your opinion, why is it important for artists to use their work for this form of change?

CM: So many Artists love to make comments on social awareness issues through their Art, and often tend to fall a little short in terms of their own actions. Like the old saying, lead by example, not just talking about it. In my opinion, doing so only educates yourself more on the topic, but also adds more validity to your point.

Wrinkled 21, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 18" W x 18" H, 2007.

BS: Christina, where can our readers view your work in person? Will you be involved with any upcoming shows?

CM: I've just begun a new series of work that I want to fine tune before I'm ready to exhibit it. So the majority of my energy is being devoted to that. Though, that having been said, due to some recent international interest, I'm also researching opportunities to exhibit in various cities in South Korea and Japan.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?

CM: Just that I'm thankful you enjoyed it enough to feature on your blog!
You can learn more about Christina Massey by visiting her website-- Christina is currently a member of the myartspace community-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

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