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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Interview with Shawna Mouser

q)Well, first of all please tell us a little about yourself.

a)I was born January 20th, 1971 in the San Francisco Bay Area. My dad says there was a diarrhea epidemic that day and the maternity ward was quarantined so he had to sit in the waiting area. My mom says after I was born, she struggled with my dad to stop him from throwing my birth certificate out of the window of the truck in the highway. He didn’t want me to be in the system. And so it began….I was ‘Baby Girl Alexander-Mouser” at the hospital and remained nameless—or as “Womb-Lander”—for an unknown period of days/weeks/months until I was ultimately called “Shawna”. I live in Texas now and since I was a baby. We drink Dr. Pepper back to 4 generations. I’m a Houstonian, a few generations deep.I like multiplicity, accidents and alterations, in art, in life. I believed in boredom in my early teens, then I figured out that boredom is a dumb excuse for nothing and there is little time in life for nothing to happen.
I’ve never been able to sit still.
I was the kid who always spilled her milk.
I can’t wear white and you probably shouldn’t wear white around me.
I bump my head a lot, fortunately I inherited a very hard head.
I’ve been told by my Granny a million times that I “giggle too much.” On my birthday the year she died, she called me and told me that I always giggled too much when I was a kid. I giggled over the phone. She told me I still giggle too much and that I should never stop giggling. I haven’t stopped.
I like intuition but I can be a really bad listener.
I give really good advice to my friends that I often fail to apply to my own life.
I think I know it all, but I still make dumb mistakes regardless of how I thought I just knew it would be in the end.
I’m pretty okay at starting over.
Rebuilding is equivocal to building.
I’ve learned the most in hindsight, yet I still manage to ignore what I know.

I know that when I don’t make art, I get really frustrated with life’s chaos. I need art to help me keep my life in order.

I consider myself a maximalist……or a happy accident.

q)How would you describe your work?

a)Patterns and pieces of stories, possibilities, past and future memories, sliced up with an ex-acto and pieced back together into a changed perspective. I like to mix the old with the new. I like blurry timelines. I teeter between 2-D and 3-D work, 21/2 – D collages and 3-d people out of clothes from the thrift store. I turn into these empty life-sized forms. My long-term plan is to make a crowd of people for a large installation. I’ve made a few so far…”the Perfect Mail Order Husband”, “Candy, “Adam and Eve” etc….I’m working on “The Perfect Mail Order Bride” and “A Year of Centerfolds”.

q)Did somebody encourage you to be an artist?

a)Most definitely. I grew up in a multi-media existence – with A/V geeks, musicians, performers, rebels, craftsmen, painters, thinkers, builders, architects, chefs, seamstresses, teachers, needle-pointers, dreamers, writers, readers, perfectionists, doers, makers, failures, rock-stars, troubled geniuses, realists,...and on and on and on. I was surrounded by talented and amazing people. There are some definite key players instrumental to my artistic faith - parents, grandparents, teachers from elementary on to professors in college, friends, the 14 foot by 7 inch co-op, lovers, blood lines…My Granddaddy Bliss amazed me. He painted these beautifully emotionally ominous paintings of Ozark landscapes. His paintings moved me and still do. When I was a girl and I used to scuttle about his studio and touch his paintings and his brushes…I’d smell them, admire them. My Grandmother Brickey taught me the difference between “naked” and “nude” when I asked her about the “naked lady” paintings in her house. She was the one who sent me to classes at Glassell when I was a kid. I’ve always felt that those classes really taught me to see and I started learning how to turn what I felt and envisioned into an art form. I really learned that art has no boundaries.
It was a no-brainer for me to choose Studio Art as a major when I entered college. My dad was a huge supporter and still is. I like the look in his eye when he sees I’ve been making art. That gleam went away for a long while…he wasn’t too happy with me when I dropped out of college one year shy of a degree because I decided that art does not require a degree. I know why the look went away for him because in hindsight, this wasn’t the best idea I ever had. I stopped making art for about 6/7 years. I quit with huge ideas and then life took over the idea and my perceptions changed full of baby accidentally. I soon lived as a single mom with babies and arms full, full-time corporate job and I claimed to not have the time for art. Doug Michels came to dinner at my parent’s house and saw some of my work there and asked to see more. He visited me for show and tell and I showed him all the work I did in college. He asked me why I wasn’t making art? And I shrugged and said I didn’t have enough time. “Maybe I’ll make art again when the kids are 18.” He waved a smiling finger at me and said “There is always time for art, Shawna and you should be making art.” He didn’t blink until I agreed. So I did it. I planned my dates with my muse and reunited with “Mr. Art” on the weekends. I’d put the kids to bed, drink a bucket of coffee and stay up all night making art. Doug was right - there was time for making art. Doug died in 2003 and I keep his picture over my drafting table – he still keeps me in check. He’s my “Mr. Art”.

q)What is your favorite medium?

a)Gloss medium.
It’s great – non-toxic, rubbery, clear, water-resistant. You can spray some of my pieces off with the garden hose and do no damage!
I like to work with found stuff…images from books, magazines, encyclopedias, medical journals, ARTifacts, old junk, scraps of stuff.

q)Can you describe your process from the seed of an idea to a complete work?
a)I can’t always keep up with my ideas and life can get really seedy at times, so I try to write these things down. I keep lists and files and stuff. I have a lot of stories in my brain.

Sometimes I research an idea – focus on the meaning in very vague/broad terms. I scribble crazy notes about a topic in my sketchbook and I start applying symbols and metaphor to the verbal story. I might tuck it away for awhile…digest it…or I might jump right into my collage files and books and magazines and start pulling out images.

Other times, I start by digging through images and files and what I find becomes the idea – response to something I don’t know of until all is done and I know exactly what it means.

My ideas require a lot of reverse thinking to come to fruition and the words/meaning sometimes disappear until the piece is done.

It helps to be a pack-rat.

q)Generally speaking, where do your ideas come from?

a)Human behavior.
Inhuman behavior.
The people I meet, the stories I hear, my experiences, their experiences.
Human experience.
Inhuman experience.

q)How long does it take to complete a piece?

a)Sometimes instamatically, Sometimes years. I may start something and then loose touch with some feeling about it, become detached and walk away from it for awhile. Later, I come back with a new point of view. I have some things that will take forever to finish.

q)Who are some of your favorite artists?

a)I can never answer this question appropriately because my “favorites” encompass a multi-faceted area if interests….art is a very broad thing to me, “artist” a broad possibility, an entire existence of beings from all “disciplines” and ideas….I love thought and the responses to an idea/life. Art is a scientific method in itself – if you were able to really sew the heart and brain into one piece…oh rambling on and on..”favorite artists?” well….genres and groups – I love Dadaism, Surrealism, German Expressionism, mythology, the blurred lines between myth and catholicism found in Rennaissance art...I love Eastern religious icons. I love anatomists and musicians and dreamers and I could go on and on and on…I love sattire, concept, structure, emotion, movement, etc……my most favorite artists are the people who’s life line’s I’ve criss-crossed with in person in some way, shape or form.

q)Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?

a)No. and yes…..I like group or small intimate shows where people talk about the art or where the art gives people more to talk about life in general. “Exhibits” freak me out. I always think an exhibit is for dead people.
I do have a few shows coming up…I have a piece to be published in the Knock Magazine #8 – out of Antioch University Seattle – released in December 2008… and I will be showing with Michael Ableman and another artist in Austin at Debra Madsen Gallery in January 2008. This year also marks the end of Proper Gander (wah! Wah! Wah!) and we will have an art party in early December. It will be a sad happy affair, I’m sure.

q)Do you have any “studio rituals”? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps you get in the mood for working?

a)Stress, as much as I hate to admit it, usually is what gets me in the mood for working. Oh goodness, that sounds miserable…maybe what I mean to say is pressure…but I’m almost always under some sort of pressure (aren’t we all?).
Working is often a moody thing. It always involves music, which always depends on the mood which is very undependable. I need space to freely release the pressure. Space is my ritual.

q)What is your favorite a) taste b) sound c) sight d) smell e) tactile sensation?

a)I love sensationalism. I like the taste, sound, sight, smell and tactile sensations that exist inside of being and doing.
I like the feeling of my exacto with a clean new blade cutting through paper.

q)Do you have goals that you are trying to reach as an artist, what is your drive? What would you like to accomplish in your profession?

a)I work to make sure art is not my profession so I don’t stray from my goal of art for art’s sake, driven by the heART and not the $money.

q)When have you started using the internet and what role does this form of communication play for you, personally, for your art, and for your business?

a)I remember a time before the internet when I felt more connected to people personally. I may have been closely connected in a smaller circle. These days, I feel connected to a larger circle of people who are at somewhat of a distance. I think I’ve adjusted well enough. The internet used to be a great tool for research…it excited me, but seems now a tool for selling and buying. I do like the internet for the information exchange that can happen between other artists and exposure to so much more…just seems now it’s the needle in the haystack syndrome when before I felt part of a haystack full of needles in my hand. It can distract me away from work, the internet, it can get overwhelming...I hate the things people can do to hurt people through the internet . rabbit holes, portals, easy access, Oh what a twisted and tangled worldwide web we weave!

q)What do you obsess over?

a)Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! “What don’t I obsess over?” is probably easier to answer. I obsess over stuff…lots of it. I collect and obsess compulsively. My whole life can be in shambles, but my cd’s and records will be perfectly categorized and turned facing the same direction. My clothes will be hanging in the closet by order of color and length and type (long-sleaved, short-sleaved, coats, short dresses, long dresess, short skirts, long skirts, pants, etc…) but my laundry pile reaches the sky and the dishes are all dirty from weeks ago. My car is notoriously full of trash and stuff ….my car caught on fire and burned from the inside out in the middle of the night in ’92 from a cigarette butt because inside it was a paper fire trap on wheels.
I obsess over time. I like for every clock to be a different measure of fast so that I always feel on time. Cell phones show the real time via satellite and this really bothers me daily.

q)Do you have preferred working hours? Do you pay attention to the time of day or maybe specific lighting?

a)I take as many spots that open up at random as I can. I make sure to set aside time-specific if it isn’t happening on its own…two kids, full-time day job, and other juggling acts can sometimes keep me from art…so I have to make time away or work around a multitude of factors. It seems to always happen just in time, though. I work best under deadlines and pressure. It gives me plenty of time to procrastinate (think) in between.

q)Do you do commissioned works?

a)I can/will/have. I prefer non-specific commissions with room for plenty of artistic freedom of choice.

q)Any tips for emerging artists?

a)Stick to your vision and don’t let unconstructive criticism cloud your perspective. There is a lot of art in the word heART.

q)Contact info…



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