This blog is sponsored by Bel's Art Studio and Wildflowers, women-led local businesses you can learn more about on our homepage and Instagram.
What would you say you do, creatively speaking?
I am an “artist” and writer, though I dislike the label of “artist”. I’m predominantly a worker, a working class person, that makes art. I work in a variety of mediums. As a writer, I’m mostly a poet though I do occasionally write material with a more prose-like sensibility. I don’t often make clear distinctions between visual and written work. I’m interested in the way these two mediums intersect.
When and how did you start?
I don’t recall a time when art and literature weren’t a part of my life. My love affair with literature and the act of writing developed when I was very young. The first novel I ever read was Call of the Wild by Jack London. That experience initiated an insatiable appetite for the written word. The impact of that first novel was so profound that I have kept a copy of it all my life. I studied art as a student, both formally and informally. I didn’t begin to create visual art until I was well into adulthood. It began with simple experimentation and developed into an obsession. I realized that creating in these mediums, whether visual, written or somewhere in between, was a liberatory act, a political act. I began to really understand art on a personal level as a serious critical platform. I became interested, as a matter of practice, in the way art defines the boundaries of and gives an aesthetic vocabulary to social and political movements.
Who or what has inspired or influenced you?
A list of influences could be a very long list. With that said, I would say I have been strongly influenced by 20th century movements like Dada, futurism, modernism, situationism and abstract expressionism, as well as speculative and sci-fi art and literature, to name a few. Current influences include the work of friends, artists and co-editors of Locust Review, Adam and Tish Turl, local poet Tom Murphy (who is, in my opinion, one of the best modern poets operating in the U.S. today), Indian artist Anupam Roy, my life partner, Leslie Lea, and the critical writing of Alexander Billet, all of whom I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy personal and working relationships with.
I am personally inspired by my experiences as a factory worker, a member of the working class and the inherent power, no matter how latent, of the working class to change the world itself. My work is often deliberately aimed at valorizing the lives and struggles of working class and marginalized people, how existing material conditions affect us and what the potential outcomes of those conditions might be in the future, for better or worse.
What has been the most challenging part?
The most difficult, or challenging, part for me has been navigating the “Art” world and clarifying what it means to be an artist.
Have you ever wanted to give up?
Of course. I think every artist wants to give up at times. But, maybe what the artist wants is less important than what the work demands or desires. To give up would be to succumb to a sort of fatalism or indifference. To make art is to hope that somehow, someway, a better something is possible.
What keeps you motivated to continue?
I don’t know if I am motivated to continue. I would say I am compelled. I am compelled to make art because I am compelled to seek freedom, to be free, from the constraints of modern capitalism, the banality of domesticity, the drudgery of working life and the claustrophobia of existing institutions.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin selling their work or putting themselves out there?
Just do it. What’s the worst that could happen? Dealing with rejection is an inherent part of making art and shooting it out into the world, no matter what the medium. For each person that dislikes your work or rejects your work there is someone that will love and accept your work. If you have something to say, say it. Damn the critics.
Is there anything you wish you would have known when you first started?
I wish I would have had a better understanding of the “Art’ world and what it encompasses. In particular, I wish I had understood better the way the “Art” world assigns value. Value in the “Art” world is mostly arbitrary. I’m not particularly interested in those things anymore. art > Art.
What is your definition of success?
Success is a tricky and subjective term. I think it’s difficult to think about what that word really means in an increasingly dystopic historical period like the one we inhabit. For me, success in those terms, means finding the ways I can best challenge those conditions that create that dystopic environment and shape the experience of it. As an artist, or as an activist, I would hope that I can lend something of value to the conversation about the world we might want, the world we might envision and the kind of world we should demand. If I did those things well, I would call it success.
What are your dreams?
I dream of a world that is free from oppression in all its forms and free from exploitation. In that world everyone will be truly free...and, we’ll definitely be able to teleport.
Sponsored by Bel's Art Studio and Wildflowers, women-led local businesses you can learn more about on our homepage and Instagram.