Q & A with artist ALLISON RENSHAW
What are you currently reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
I am currently reading "H is for Hawk" by Helen MacDonald, which I wouldn't necessarily say is “feeding” my work, but I do think that everything we experience, read, and see has influence. It is a non-fiction work about a woman who loses her father and turns back to her passion as an experienced falconer to work through her grief.
I listen to all sorts of music while working in the studio, I can’t stand silence in the studio! I also look at so much work either online, or in person, I love looking at what other people are doing and making.
Another book that really fed my work was "The Night Sky, Writings on the Poetics of Experience" by Ann Lauterbach. Her investigation of ‘whole fragments’ really struck me especially.
What are your biggest challenges to creating art and how do you deal with them? How do you navigate the art world?
I think finding time to be in my studio is the biggest challenge. I am a full-time mom and I am also very active with teaching art and fitness classes, so juggling my schedule is often very difficult. I think navigating the art world has become easier with the internet, but there are still ups and downs. It is pretty amazing to be asked to be in a show because someone saw you on a blog somewhere, as before we used to send slide portfolios out.
What mediums do you work with? How would you describe your subject matter?
I work with a lot of media: acrylic, oil, collage, spray paint, ink, paper, canvas, panel, etc. My paintings are informed by particles of our urban landscape and our culture found in the everyday. Fashion, modern architecture, and the natural environment combine and collide in my work. In this setting, elements of plasticity and temporality are depicted in a suspended state of in-betweeness. I create a universe that is seemingly random and difficult to decipher. This chaotic quality becomes an apt visualization for today’s open-source culture of sampling and recycling. Lines between the organic and the man-made become blurred and a larger narrative is evoked through a banal fragment.
When people ask you what you “do”, how do you answer?
I usually say I am an artist. If they ask more specifically I usually say a “mixed-media painter."
Describe a childhood memory that has influenced your artwork
I would have to say all of the time we spent outdoors camping, skiing and visiting beautiful places. I remember always drawing.
But also, the death of my father at age 5 and the death of my mother at age 26 has influenced the work off and on or maybe even always in the background.
Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now? Do you see your work as autobiographical at all?
I see the physicality in the work and the temperament being autobiographical, but I don’t see a shift that has happened recently. It is a process that continues to feed into each new piece. I recently went through a couple of years dealing with some bad sciatic pain which ended up requiring surgery, but I don’t necessarily see that in the work. Maybe a few years from now I will be able to look back and see that. Sometimes it takes a few years to fully understand why I made the work I did.
What is your personal message to your artwork and how does that connect to a communal and universal message?
I am interested in how cultures combine and collide and become something new. I feel like we are just bombarded daily by images, fragments of images, and cultural differences at high speed. The internet has made sampling, recycling and appropriation the norm now. I am attracted to the idea that combining such fragments creates a collage that becomes its own thing entirely.
Do you intend your work to challenge the viewer?
I am not sure that “challenge” is the right word, but engage would be a good one. I very interested in the idea that we each have our own personal experiences and baggage. An individual fragment can elicit something completely different from viewer to viewer depending on his/her own awareness, which in a strange way, makes the viewer part of the collage.
Is the creative impulse driven by a personal need to ease pain and/or satiate desire?
Yes and yes!! I find that I need to make work even if nobody ever outside the studio saw it again. I also have found that in difficult times in my life, my art has saved me. I am a process art maker and loads of the pleasure is derived from just the making of it. It is funny how sometimes artists don’t discuss just how much “fun” making art is.
What three things never fail to bring you pleasure?
My family, exercise, Mexican food.
Whats your motto?
Go big or go home!