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martedì 1 giugno 2010

Interview with April Behnke

q)What is your earliest art-related memory?

a)It's a silly one! When I was very little, maybe 4 or 5, my mom used to take me to her friend Cindy's house to play with her daughter, Whitney. Cindy was an artist, and she encouraged us to draw and paint. I remember one day, Whitney and I were playing with watercolors. I had two glasses next to me on the floor: one, a glass of milk and the other, of paint water. Of course, I got a little thirsty and took a big gulp of the paint water. I was convinced for hours that I was poisoned! But I turned out okay and I continued to paint!

q) Who has had the greatest influence on your work?

a)My sister, Katey, who's so rebellious, sensitive and creative, besides being an amazing artist, is my greatest influence. I used to love watching her work in her bedroom when we were growing up. I think a huge amount of my interest in art grew from wanting to be just like her.

q) What are the main tools of your craft?

a)Tools for my brain: my friends and teachers, the library, the Art Institute, and all the better galleries around Chicago, like Western Exhibitions and 3 Walls. Tools in the studio: watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, paint mediums, technical pens, mylar and of course, beautiful papers. I've been getting really into silkscreening recently too, so inks and screens, as well.

q) Is a formal education important?

a)I think, for most artists, yes. I've got to qualify this though because I'm pretty biased: I'm in the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago now, which provides the most unbelievably stellar education. I think a little formal teaching can give artists the tools to talk about their work eloquently, allows them the opportunity to gain wisdom from well established artists and helps bring them into a wider arts community, all of which are key for helping build careers. I don't think a formal education is necessary to make amazing work though, take Henry Darger or Scottie Wilson, for instance. But most outsider artists seem to be discovered only after they've passed. The quality of the work is the same, but unless an outsider is extremely lucky, he/she can't easily make a career out of waiting to be discovered.

q) What is the biggest misconception about art?

a)I think people get intimidated by art because they aren't always sure how to talk about it and feel like they should know how to. This might lead a person to be afraid to approach work that is new to them. It's okay to just describe what you see - putting a visual language into words can often lead to a deeper understanding of what you are looking at. I think an approach like that can allow someone to encounter an art object one on one, instead of being burdened by what they feel like they are supposed to know or say.

q) Which is more important in art - concept or execution?

a)To be honest, I don't know if there's really a way to separate the two. I'm not sure I can answer this question, I'm sorry!

q) What theme or aesthetic are you most drawn too?

a)I'm always drawn to the work of artists who take imaginative leaps - which is quite a lot of them! I like work that doesn't feel restricted by our physical reality, but rather, interprets that reality in a way that uncovers some truth hidden within it.

q) What is your favorite piece of art in your home?

a)I have this fabulous painting I found in my studio when I was in college of a plate of macaroni and cheese on a patterned red and white tablecloth. It's such a gem and someone was going to throw it away! I don't know what they were thinking. I've lugged it around with me to every place I've moved since. It's such a funny, odd, sweet painting. It's a tiny bit sad too. I just adore it.

q) If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

a)I would have loved to make drawings for Hermann Hesse. I get so jealous of Paul Klee every time I read 'Journey to the East.' Hesse could make the most simple, exquisite images with words and was an incredibly wise man. I think collaborating with him, though I'd never deserve to, would be a profound experience.

q) Which emerging artist do you think more people should know about?

a)There are so many talented artists in my program I think should be better known. Two painters who just graduated from the Art Institute, Sam Bittman and Chinatsu Ikeda, have such strong work, I think and hope they will receive attention soon. Spread the word! Google them!

q) What has been your greatest achievement to date?

a)Getting into this MFA program, of course, but I think also receiving some international recognition. Two years ago, I had a solo show in Seoul at the Janet Oh Gallery. That was the most surreal, scary and exciting experience I've probably ever had. I'd never met Janet, but she flew me alone to Korea. I was the only blond person in sight! It was amazing, though. I spent a week there getting a feel for the city and met so many people I would have never had a chance to meet otherwise.

Last year I travelled abroad again when I took my first residency in the Netherlands with the Slak Foundation. I stayed there for three months living and working on my own, and I think it had an enormous effect on me and how I think about my work. I felt so much stronger when I left Holland, both as an artist and as a person. It allowed me the chance to see so so much, travel and engage with many different cultures. I feel so grateful to have had that opportunity.

q) What has been your biggest roadblock?

a)I'm sure every artist says this, but finances. Unfortunately, it's still very hard to have time and money to work a job, eat, live, and make your work. Money problems distract so much from time you could be spending in the studio. I've found that working a job that pays decently and doesn't stress me out too much is the best option.

q) How do you define success?

a)I think in my career so far, I've felt most successful when I've known in my gut that a viewer or friend has genuinely connected with something I've made. When that happens, it validates this pursuit.

q) What will be the name of your autobiography?

a)Autobiography? Nah, no one will ever write that. My life is too low-key and pleasant!

q)What is the best piece of (art-related) advice you’ve ever been given?

a)Take into account what others say about your work, if it's helpful, use it, if it's not, discard it. First and foremost, try to make work that's true to yourself. Attempting to fit in or be cool are, generally speaking, recipes for disaster.