This post continues my series “In-Sync with…” aimed to get a closer look at contemporary artists and art professionals from Chicago and abroad. Read it, enjoy it, share it, and get in-sync with Chicago artist Victoria Fuller. Do not miss her personal recommendations at the end of the interview.
I personally met Victoria Fuller early this year when searching for artists for Chicago’s Twelve Exhibition at the Zhou B Art Center. Since then, I have been following her work and have come to admire her as a musician, visual artist and friend. She is a hard working artist who understands how to manage both her art and music careers. I particularly love her found object based works which were also included in Chicago’s Twelve at the Garfield Park Conservatory this year.
ABOUT VICTORIA FULLER
Sergio: Where did you go to school and what degree you received?
Victoria: I received an MFA from SAIC.
Sergio: Do you feel art school prepared you for the art career you have now?
Victoria: An education in art and art history helped me participate in constructive dialogue with other artists and art aficionados. I also learned to take greater chances, experiment more, look at my art more critically, and form connections that would serve me later in my career.
Sergio: What is one thing you wish you had learned at art school?
Victoria: I wish I’d been trained in the business of art…how to actually make money. Most artists don’t understand business and learning this skill should be a requirement at art schools.
Sergio: What is your website?
ABOUT YOUR WORK
Sergio: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
Victoria: Currently, I’m creating a sculpture depicting the earth both above and below the ground with animals in their underground lairs living among the roots of plants. I’m heading more toward work inspired by my fascination with nature, biology and science. However, my “found object” pieces also reflected the natural world in the placement of manmade objects against biological context, such as doorknobs shaped to evoke the AIDS virus atop a background resembling cellular structure.
Sergio: How does a typical day in your studio/creative space look?
Victoria: I don’t actually have a typical day. Some days start at my computer with e-mail or digital design. Other days, I may work in the studio or meet with an assistant for a specific piece (right now, it’s a sculpture made from dresser drawers but far from your typical dresser drawers…the drawers interlock and are totally covered in knobs). Each day can be very different from the next.
Sergio: Describe your creative process:
Victoria: Whether the subject is the natural world or found objects of the everyday, I wish to communicate the exquisite importance of life itself. I hope to convey a sense of emotional depth, relate to the viewer, and incorporating numerous layers of meaning not only through theory, but execution. First, I involve humor. For example, in my piece, Self-Empowerment , electrical outlets connect from one outlet to another on a cube covered in outlets with no actual power source other than itself. My piece Knob Job and the Power Box has a humorous title but the material – common, everyday objects – adds another layer of meaning (additionally inspired by Constantin Brâncuși’s visual presentation by including the literal base in the totality of the art). I reference the commodification of excess and the “buy, buy, buy” materialistic mentality of society. The idea of “material” relates to the Dada movement. By taking an object out of its normal use and putting it in another context – like a Rube Goldberg machine – it no longer functions as a useful object, but aesthetic item to be admired. In the Surrealist movement, artists would combine objects that totally didn’t relate to each other, yet a lot of those objects – like in dreams – are actually symbolic when combined. Comte de Lautréamont articulated my philosophy well: “As beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table.”
Sergio: What type of mental/practical activities do you do when facing a creative block?
Victoria: I try to keep artistically stimulated when in a creative block by talking to other artists, perusing visual images that inspire me and getting out of the studio to view artwork, in-person.
Sergio: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?
Victoria: I find it both distraction and asset. It takes up a lot of my time but is helpful for promotional purposes.
Sergio: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?
Victoria: I have trouble finding time to work on my art, as well as making work that continues to push boundaries but has commercial appeal.
Sergio: What is the relationship between your music and your visual careers and how do they inform each other?
Victoria: My music and art are two different modes of expression on different tracks that, like trains headed in the same direction, don’t typically intersect. My music – folk rock pop, with jazz and blues influences – was originally inspired by The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, The Doors, Janice Joplin and Brazilian jazz. My art, on the other hand, takes cues from Pop Art, Surrealism and the natural world with MC Escher, Georgia O’Keefe, Hieronymus Bosch and Marcel Duchamp as influences. However, I’ve recently been inspired by Picasso and Braque’s use of guitar imagery as subject (with musical object as media) in my pieces Cubist Guitar 1 and Cubist Guitar 2, utilizing actual guitar parts. And, though I’ve never written songs about the materials and concepts that inspire my art, perhaps it’s time.
Sergio: How much does the art market influences your art production/output?
Victoria: I feel pressured to make something salable while simultaneously making something to enhance people’s minds and there’s a fine line between the two. And, in this economy, affordability is an issue, adding to the challenge.
Sergio: What’s next for you (exhibits, projects, travels, residencies, etc)?
Victoria: I’m working with a group of artists on a show to be held in the Boston area on the theme of art and science, as well as continuing to submit for public art commissions. Also, I’m a musician and looking forward to a series of upcoming concerts.
ABOUT CONTEMPORARY ART
Sergio: What excites you and what do you dislike about your local art scene?
Victoria: Chicago’s top-notch museums never fail to excite me, along with attending art openings and networking. On the other hand, I really wish Chicago collectors would put more of an emphasis on supporting local artists rather than assuming New York is the only city of value.
Sergio: What is missing, lacking or changing in contemporary art?
Victoria: There’s a new movement in art that not only lacks skill, but acts as if it’s “cool” to lack skill. There’s an article in Art Review by Christian ViVeros-fauné called “Deskilling is Killing Art” that describes this new movement as “piggybacking on other, older messages and crippling capacity for intelligent thought from the inside.” Good art is combination of skill, message and the ability to get people to look at something in a new light. Art has always had an essence of anti-establishment attitude, even an act of rebellion in itself. But art just for shock misses the mark and doesn’t convey value.
Sergio: What is your take on the current emphasis on contemporary art fairs?
Victoria: Contemporary art fairs are often a balancing act. While a great way to promote both artists, they’re a sizable expense and effort for the galleries, too. Of course, the determination would be on a case-by-case basis and, in the end, positive exposure may well be worth the trouble.
Sergio: Do you believe gallery representation today is as important as it has been in the past?
Victoria: Galleries and the art world – like books, newspapers and magazines – are dramatically changing because of the internet. However, I still believe people want to see art first-hand. Being in the presence of art – seeing it, touching it and experiencing it in an immediate way – simply can’t be duplicated on a computer screen.
Sergio: How do you envision the art world would be different ten years from now?
Victoria: There may be more digital art on the forefront with less emphasis on a tangible object. Perhaps digital art will extend to the point that – instead of picture frames and stretched canvas – collectors will just buy art for the flat screens or monitors. However, the digital world may become nostalgic and herald a return to the tangible object. Who knows?
Sergio: If you could reinvent the way the art market (galleries, collectors, museums, art fairs) functions, how would it look like?
Victoria: Often, the market seems based in making connections. While networking is wonderful, I sometimes wish less emphasis was placed on “who you know” and more emphasis on sheer quality of work.
Book…The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
Art movie or documentary… Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides
Art museum… The Prado in Spain (because they have a Hieronymous Bosch)
Contemporary artist (other than yourself)… Sharon Que in Ann Arbor, Kate McDowell, Henrique Oliveira in Brazil, Resa Blatman and Ai Weiwei
Place to be inspired by… Anywhere near water
One sentence advice for an art student… Work in your studio, develop a body of work, and network!
Chicago cafe/restaurant… Cumin, an Indian restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue
YouTube video… “United Breaks Guitars” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo
Check out Victoria Fuller’s SMALL MOMENTS CD at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/victoriafuller