Featured Artist Audrey Sullivan
Interview by Rashidah Salam
Audrey Sullivan is a MamaCITA affilitated member who lives and works in Farmville, Virginia where she is founder and creative director of Red Door 104. Red Door is an art studio as well as a unique learning center designed to foster an appreciation of art for students ages 3 and up.
Rashidah: Tell me a little bit about your path as an artist.
Audrey: I am self taught and cannot remember a time I didn’t have a paint brush or pencil in my hand. At the age of 14, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime when I was chosen to intern at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples Italy, the oldest Opera house in the world. Five of us were given the chance to work on a production of Madam Butterfly including costume and set design. It was the set design that set a fire under me and ignited the artist I’ve become. I went on to learn faux finishing and large mural production, which I was able to turn into a 25 year business in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area. When I started painting for myself (on canvas) my instinct was to go big as I was used to working on massive walls. I’ve learned to paint smaller but still prefer large works.
R: How has living in different places influenced the way you make art?
A: I’ve been extremely fortunate to live in cultures where art thrives. Once my passion was lit, I became a sponge – never missing an opportunity to attend gallery exhibits, museums or simply drink in architecture in old cities. I’m quick to go back to my studio to try and figure out how a piece I’ve seen was accomplished.
R: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
A: This is the most difficult question, there are so many. If I had to choose, it would be my visits to the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro. We lived there for 3 years and I suppose I chose that memory because every time I visited, I recall almost not being able to breathe, being so taken in by the visual scenery, the air, the magnificence and grandeur of the statue. As a child I think I was certain that the statue itself, was God! A close second would be Italian food!
R: What are the major themes in your art?
A: This changes…and often! Someone told me once that I had a bad website because there was no theme or continuity to my body of work. I tend to find a subject that intrigues me and run with it till I’m bored…that could be 5-10 paintings later. I like to experiment until I feel that I’ve mastered something, then it’s time to move on. Currently I’m painting a lot of birds and experimenting with thick body paints.
R: What types of art do you most identify with?
A: I’m extremely drawn to surrealism, Salvadore Dali being a favorite. I suppose it’s the mystery of meaning and interpretation. Interestingly, I don’t feel compelled to create surrealism, I’m just drawn to it.
R: What types of mediums do you use most in your artwork?
A: Although I love oils, I’m much too “instant gratification” oriented and lost patience with them. I switched to acrylics early on and never went back. After learning the art of gilding, metal leaf quickly became a favorite medium. Many of my pieces either begin with a base of gold, silver or copper leaf which I paint on or I incorporate bits of metal leaf into thickly applied paint.
R: What path has your art brought you to in 2016?
A: A dream of mine has always been to renovate an old building. Three years ago, my father in law’s health was failing and we felt it was necessary to move closer to him. This brought us to Farmville, a small charming town in Central Virginia where we purchased a 110 year old, 5500 square foot building on Main St. in the historic district. I designed a loft space upstairs where we now live and downstairs I created an art studio/school where I currently teach. This fall we are starting our third phase of construction on the adjoining space, which will add an art gallery. The concept behind the gallery will be “Fine, Fun and Functional” art. With so many amazing artist friends, I wanted to create a space for all of us to sell our work. The name of the school/gallery is Red Door 104, inspired by the 500 year old door brought over by ship from Spain. It is currently being restored and should be installed this fall. The address is 104 N. Main St., hence, Red Door 104. It hasn’t left much time for making new art as the building itself has become my version of an art installation. We are looking forward to completing this massive undertaking and can’t wait to get back into the studio to paint!
Featured Artist Nathalie Borozny
Interview by Megan Greenholt
Nathalie Borozny, our newest MamaCITA member, has many of the creative qualities I seek to practice: perspective, intuition, spirituality, and wisdom. I have not had the opportunity to share many moments with her since she joined the group. Several weeks ago we were both in attendance at a member meeting regarding our upcoming guild show at Cheltenham Center for the Arts. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I found myself becoming more engaged in the discussion as Nathalie’s insightful comments were offered. Following, she responded to several questions regarding her work and life history. – Megan
How did you practice your creativity when you were a teacher of young children?
I went into the early childhood classroom about five years after my last classes in Design, Architecture and Art at the University of Cincinnati and Rhode Island School of Design. The lessons I started to learn there were with me as I began my life with young children and their families. Setting up an environment that provided unstructured materials in ways that freed children to create. This was how I expressed my own creativity. Italians say ” fino a mano”, do everything with a fine hand. So setting up an art area, serving snack, displaying the children’s paintings, allowed me to practice my own creativity.
How has your work changed through your career as an artist?
I devoted myself to sharing the lives of young children and families for fifty years before I came to practice art again. I don’t think I have a long enough history of art making to get a perspective on change. Recently I’ve felt looser and willing to play more with materials so perhaps I’m coming full circle back to early childhood again!
You currently explore the combination of papermaking and photography. What are the rewards and challenges of using the two together? How is the process similar? Different?
The first time I printed one of my photographs on paper I made, I felt a little anxious about violating the purity of the paper! Paper made by hand, whether cotton/abaca or the more exotic Washi using Kozo or Gampi fibers seemed to be complete in, and of, itself. Making paper, putting my hands in the vat, is completely, unthinkingly, sensory. Taking a photograph, even if I plot out the place and time, turns out to be a crap shoot . The reward of using my old inkjet printer with handmade paper and a photograph stored on my computer for years is that something happens I can’t predict.
Natural forms and landscape are your subjects, why and how do you manipulate the image to express your intention?
Natural forms and landscape seem to be my subjects because I am very comfortable messing around in the dirt, with tree roots, dead things, and lately, thunderclouds. I grew up on a dairy farm and spent a lot of time alone in the woods, in brooks, in fields. I usually look at a photograph for days, weeks, months, put it away, and take it out, look at it out of the corner of my eye until it tells me what my intention is.
Describe the conceptual space you enter when making art. How does it inform your practice?
I’m an impatient person, an impatient driver, and sometimes an impatient cook, certainly impatient with forms of sexism, racism, and ageism. But when making art I go into a calm, vast, waiting space. It’s part of letting things happen.
and last but not least…Why did you join MamaCITA?
I joined MamaCITA because art is a shared experience. And I’m a mother.
The shared life and creative experiences of MamaCITA members are reflected in the synergy present at every meeting and exhibit. Nathalie is a welcome addition to our collaborative and I can’t wait to see what her creative process continues to reveal. – Megan
Visit Nathalie’s MamaCITA Page