Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Art Space Talk: Valerie Gillespie

Valerie Gillespie is an artist who utilizes text within her visual message. She states that she is an advocate for art that speaks. Gillespie has exhibited at Local Color Gallery in Dallas and Arlington, Texas. She has also exhibited at Janette Kennedy Gallery in Dallas, Texas. She studied art at Randolph College and is currently attending graduate school at New York University.

Brian Sherwin: Valerie, what can you tell us about your early years concerning your interest in art?

Valerie Gillespie: I started creating at a very young age. My mother was big into fashion design and around the age of five I started mimicking her sketches. I loved watching her create from her imagination and the amount of energy was so inspiring. She bought me my first art set at age six and ever since then I’ve been creating.

BS: And your academic years? Are you currently in college for art?

VG: I went to school for Art at Randolph College and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Art, specifically Painting. I studied Architecture abroad in Spain during my undergraduate years and worked throughout as a Teacher’s Assistant in the classroom. I am currently in graduate school at New York University. I plan to receive my Master’s degree in Studio Art by 2010. This summer I will be abroad in Venice, Italy studying Painting.

BS: Tell us about your art in general…

VG: My art can be described as abstract; however, I always have some sort of story to tell in each piece. I am a huge advocate of art that speaks. I usually strive to educate and inform my viewers on topics that are influential or personal to me.

BS: Concerning art that speaks-- would you say that a lot of art today lacks an authentic visual message?

VG: Yes and no. All art has some type of visual message or concept. What differs in each specific art piece is the content more so. Most content deals with themes. In my art, I take several specific themes and express them aesthetically on a canvas.

BS: Your art often involves text-- can you give us some insight into your choice of using text?

VG: The use of text is extremely important in my work as I am often touching upon the aspects of human nature and the notions of consciousness.

BS: What can you tell us about your influences?

VG: During my high school and undergraduate years I was heavily influenced by Romare Bearden, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jacob Lawrence. Today I look at a lot of Kara Walker and Lyle Ashton Harris’ work.

BS: Can you give us some insight into your current work?

VG: At the present moment I am working on my “Belonging” series. I started the series in 2008 and I am hoping to add a few more pieces.

BS: Tell us more about your “Belonging” series..

VG: My “Belonging” series represents a collage of ideas and thoughts surrounding the notions of Consciousness. The series seeks to explore the various aspects of human nature and why we think and act the way we do.

BS: What are your thoughts concerning the internet and how it has open doors for emerging artists?

VG: I think that the use of the internet and the World Wide Web are fabulous resources for artists in terms of gaining exposure. I’ve learned so much about myself and others simply by exposing myself to new ideas and art right at my fingertips in the comfort of my own home!

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

VG: I have an upcoming show in Venice this August at the end of my second semester of NYU. I am definitely looking forward to that!

BS: Do you have any concerns about the art world at this time? Also, would you say that the current state of the economy has harmed emerging artists?

VG: As far as the art world and issues, I am still in constant awe of the lack of exposure or rather the difficulty that African American artist’s face in getting their Art “out there”. In terms of the economy, sure it’s been hard, but creating art is something that I would do whether or not I sell my work. As an artist I’ve always made it work. That’s what we do for our passion!

BS: When I interviewed Sylvia Sleigh she mentioned that while the art world of today is more accepting than it was in the 60s and 70s there is still a degree of sexism to be found. As an artist who happens to be female-- would you say that you have experienced lack of opportunity due to gender alone? Does that aspect of the negative side of the art world concern you as much as the lack of opportunities for minority artists? In your opinion, how can we-- artists and art appreciators --bring real change to the structure of the art world?

VG: I can honestly say that gender is a factor and I know that it exists; however, personally I have not experienced it. I also know that the art world is not equal. Women and minority artists both seem to experience this inequality on all levels. The mere fact that we are categorized or identified depicts this. Often our Caucasian male counterpart is labeled or categorized with the single word “artist” only.

If there is an exhibit showcasing the work of a woman or African American for example, the art world knows it. When we are labeled as “artists” and “artists” only, then I feel that the art world will be equal. Change? We can bring about change by embracing this concept. Art allows us to have a wider cultural experience and we can learn from this.

BS: As an artist who utilizes words as a crucial aspect of your work does it concern you that some artists and companies have tried-- or have-- trademarked specific words? For example, there was a recently an issue involving Shepard Fairey, a young graphic designer, and the word ‘obey’. Representatives of Obey Giant Art Inc. sent the designer a cease-and-desist letter because of his use of the word ‘obey’. Fairey’s representatives suggested that only Shepard Fairey can use the word ‘obey’ in visual art or a design. As an artist who uses words does that alarm you?

VG: Yes! This is a scary thing. How can you control or own a word? Words are given to us to speak and express and communicate freely. They are what we use to respond and tell stories. For me personally, this alarms me because words are the symbols and characters that I use in my work to create art and communicate with my viewers.

You can learn more about Valerie Gillespie by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
Myartspace Blog on Twitter

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