Saturday, January 27, 2007

Art Space Talk: Shona Macdonald

I recently interview artist Shona Macdonald. Shona has exhibited widely and has been featured in Art in America, ARTnews, and New American Paintings. Her work uses the visual language of drawing and painting to expand on the semiotic similarities between maps and fractals. This allows her work to address issues of place, location, memory and land.

Shona is an assistant professor of art at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she teaches Drawing, Painting, and advises undergraduate and graduate students.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I can't remember a time as an adult that it wasn't. I guess that means it's always been important."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Art is a way of sifting through what society dishes out at you, good and bad, I think of it the other way around, art helps me think about how to navigate society."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. Months... sometimes more of this time is spent on research and trying out thing, etc, than actually making it. So much of what artists do is hidden."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "I don't think its romantic, I think its a lot of hard day-to-day work. The deeper-wrought philosophical meanings are in the work and I don't like to spell them out."
Q. Has your art ever been published?

A. "Yes. Art in American, ARTnews, Harpers, New American Paintings."

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "Solo drawing survery show in 2005 at the Chicago Cultural Center. It was so good to see six years of work together in one space."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. " Guilt helps me get in the mood for working. No real rituals, except I just got an I-pod which is proving very useful as I don't have to keep stopping to wash my hands in order to chage a cd. I just set it on shuffle."
Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. " I don't know, I've only met one couple in Northern California, and I can't judge everyone by them!"

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. " ISLES #4, a drawing, I was thinking about travel, memory, and place."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "Yes, I have two degrees. A BFA from Glasgow School of Art in Scotland and an MFA from UIC in Chicago. They helped in pragmatic ways providing: studio space, a community of students, etc. They were polar opposites from each other. Glasgow was traditional, figurative, UIC was conceptual, minimalist."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I seem to have an affinity for them that I don't seem to have for anything else I've tried."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "Den Contemporary Art, La, CA Skestos Gabriele Gallery, Chicago."
Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "Yes. I have an upcoming solo show at Den Contemporary in October 2007."

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in? Can you provide links to their sites?

A. "So many by now. They're all listed on my resume at my website."
Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I don't know, I don't think about trends. I can barely make it through the Sunday NY Times, let alone art magazines!I find as an artist, I look at my life and my teaching and my location and think about those things. I'm a mother too, so I simply don't have the time to think about trends right now. I used to, and all it did was upset me because I always felt 'un-trendy'!

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "Get a studio as soon as you leave art school. Spend a lot of time in there developing a new body of work outside of academia, I mean really on your own. Then talk to other artists, form groups with other artists so you can visit each others studios, etc. Have an apartment show, don't wait around for galleries to come to you. If the work gets made and is good, you'll then have the confidence to approach a gallery, if that's what you want."
Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "The whole of grad school was terrible for me, couldn't get the work together. Its actually been remarkable steady and healthy since then."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "I love doing it and wouldn't know what else to do with my brain and hands if I dind't."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "Not party politics.

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "Not directly, I don't rule anything out though. I'm interested in the sublime, for example which is a kind of faith.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the art world'?

A. "Not really. Thanks for the interview

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Shona Macdonald. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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