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Monday, May 18, 2009

Interview with Shawn Bitters

q)Please introduce yourself.

a)My name is Shawn Bitters. I am originally from Utah, in the western United States. I divide my time between my artwork and teaching printmaking. I am married and have 3 children.

q) Where do you live and work?

a)I live in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. I am an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Kansas.

q) How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?

a)I am an artist who creates work in a variety of mediums. Currently, I am creating, large, printed-paper installations, photographs, prints, and drawings. The work is focused on my perceptions of place and my connection to land.

q) How did you start in the arts? How/when did you realize you were an artist?

a)I have been drawing consistently since I was young. I have always been very involved with a variety of the fine arts. When I was young I trained as a classical pianist, I spent years in the theatre. During all this time I was devoted to creating artwork and found in college that art was where I belonged.

q) What are your favorite art materials and why?

a)Currently, my preferred materials are medium format film, paper and screenprinting. Paper has always been fascinating to me and this attraction led to sculpture and non-traditional approaches to printmaking.

q) What/who influences you most?

a)The land and culture of the American West are my greatest influences. I have been greatly influenced by Roni Horn, Giuseppe Penone, Chris Drury, and James Turrell,

q) Describe a typical day of art making for you.

a)I work best at night when it is quiet, unless I am taking photographs, and then I am at the mercy of the sun and the whim of the weather. I usually work listening to music or books on my ipod when it doesn’t interfere with my decision-making process. My work process is usually physically demanding as I am typically printing large scale prints, building armatures, or outside hiking and photographing myself in certain landscapes.

A lot of my work happens in my head before I actually make the work. I have to maintain a balance between conceptualizing and fabricating. If these two elements are not aligned the work suffers.

q) Do you have goals, specific things you want to achieve with your art or in your career as an artist?

a)I want my work to make a visceral and intellectual impact. I work to prompt myself and other viewers of the work to a greater understanding of their relationship to where they are and where they came from.

For my career I hope to engage with the contemporary art dialogue. I hope to challenge it and be challenged by it, while being true to the impulses that are key to my creative drive.

q) What contemporary artists or developments in art interest you?

a)I am encouraged by the current plurality of contemporary art practices. I am glad for the break down of the hierarchy of media. I enjoy a wide variety of artists. I was recently moved by the work of Alison Schulnik and Alex Lukas. I am inspired by the brilliance of Maya Lin and James Turrell. I feel liberated by the looseness and honesty of Chris Johansen’s work.

q) How long does it typically take you to finish a piece?

a)My better work seems to be the work that moves quickly from conceptualization to realization. Some of my work can be quite complex and the planning process takes months. Usually the actual making of the work, depending on the medium, can take a few days to a couple of weeks.

q) Do you enjoy selling your pieces, or are you emotionally attached to them?

a)Once the work is done it is out of my hands. I am happy to sell it. However, my work tends to be large and/or ephemeral in nature, making it difficult to sell.

q) Is music important to you? If so, what are some things you're listening to now?

a)At this very moment I am listening to Sigur Ros. I am most excited about the new albums of Animal Collective, Neko Case, Bon Iver, The Fleet Foxes, and the Decemberists.

I enjoy classical music. My favorite composers are Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Mussorski, Stravinsky, Barber, Brahms, and Mozart.

q) Books?

a)Reading is important to me, but I hardly have time to read. I do better with audiobooks. I have currently listened to The Road by Cormac McCarthy, American Pastoral, by Phillip Roth.

Bone Deep in Landscape by Mary Clearman Blew, Artic Dreams by Barry Lopez, Space and Place, by Yi Fu Tuan, and Seeing is Forgettening the Name of the Thing One Sees, by Lawrence Weschler are some of the books that have had deep impacts on my work. I am currently reading Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.

q) What theories or beliefs do you have regarding creativity or the creative process?

a)Creativity dies if not nurtured. I believe that boundaries and resistance push creativity forward. As I stated before there needs to be a balance between the conceptual process and making the work. The concept ignites the desire to make the work and the process of creation reshapes the idea. I feel that there are creative times when the ideas and the work flow and times when I have to stop and replenish my ideas. A multiplicity of media sparks new ideas and excitement in my creative process.

q) What do you do (or what do you enjoy doing) when you're not creating?

a)My family takes up most of my non-work time as does teaching. I enjoy exercise, especially outside. I love to hike and explore. I enjoy a wide range of films.

q) Do you have any projects or shows coming up that you are particularly excited about?

a)I am about to travel to Kasterlee, Belgium to be an artist-in-residence at the Frans Masereel Centrum. This residency is specifically for printmakers and draws artists from around the world. While there I will be experimenting with new printed surfaces and folded paper structures. These will help me prepare for installations I am building for solo shows at the Fairbanks Gallery at Oregon State University and the Haydon Art Center in Lincoln Nebraska in 2010. I am also very excited about continuing a series of photographs I started in Denmark last year.

q) Do you follow contemporary art scenes? If so, how? What websites, magazines, galleries do you prefer?

a) is my homepage on my computer. I read Artforum, Art on Paper, and The New York Times among others. Mixed Greens, Printed Matter, Sikkema Jenkins and Co, Pace Wildenstein, Perogi 2000, Dieu Donne, and the New Museum in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York always have good work to offer. The Dia Beacon in Beacon, New York is fantastic. In Kansas City I visit Grand Arts, Byron Cohen, The Dolphin Gallery, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the new addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum to see good work from both local, national, and international artists.

The website Fecal Face is always intriguing.

q) Ask yourself a question you'd like to answer, and answer it.

a)Um, I can’t think of anything!

q) Any advice for aspiring artists?

a)Don’t excuse yourself from working hard.

q) Where can we see more of your work online?



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