In the Studio

With approximately one week left to see the temporary At the Edge art show in College Station, Texas, we sat down with three of the female artists, all from Austin, who are featured in the exhibit to talk inspiration.

By Mindy Morgan
Web Exclusive

“The Austin art scene is growing, changing and adapting, just like the city as a whole,” says Rebecca Rothfus Harrell, a local artist whose work is on display until Oct. 12 as part of the At the Edge exhibit at The Wright Gallery in College Station.

At the Edge is a unique exhibit of drawings created using a variety of media, such as graphite, gouache and ink, from five Austin-based artists: Alyson Fox, Shannon Faseler, Rebecca Rothfus Harrell, Bethany Johnson and Alexandra Robinson.

Austin Woman sat down with three of them to discuss the individuality and voice they each bring to the exhibit and what it means to be an artist in the ever-growing metropolis of Austin.

 

Bethany Johnson

 

Austin Woman: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

That’s a tough question to answer. I’ve always been interested in all sorts of things. For me, deciding a professional path was less a matter of finding what I am interested in, and more an issue of having to narrow the many options down. The wonderful thing about an artistic practice, though, if that you essentially don’t have to make that choice. Making art allows you to explore whatever interests compel you. The freedom and flexibility of a creative, artistic approach to research and knowledge was ultimately what attracted me to the field. 

 

What is your favorite work spot where you can let the creative juices flow?

BJ: While my work is executed in the studio, the creative energy behind the works comes out of everyday life and a holistic search for knowledge. The gears are always turning for me, whether I’m sitting in traffic, having a conversation with a friend, walking to work or wandering on the Internet. 

 

Your work revolves mainly around the visual representation of information. Tell us more about that.

BJ: I love the abstract, complicated, expansive poetry of visual art. While art can be discussed with words, it’s really an imperfect translation. Visual art represents a form of thinking that is unlike, and even incompatible with, linguistic thought. The subtle intellectual discoveries made by viewing visual art [are] essential to my understanding of the world.

 

What do you enjoy most about the Austin art scene?

BJ: There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the Austin art scene, most palpably during Big Medium’s annual East and West events. There’s also a great deal of anxiety around maintaining Austin’s affordability for artists and art spaces as it rapidly grows. However, artists are resilient and, by definition, creative. I believe in an Austin art scene that can grow healthily along with, rather than be squeezed out by, its burgeoning city. 

 

What are your plans after At the Edge?

BJ: My work in the studio has changed quite a bit lately, and I look forward to exhibiting this new body of work in the upcoming year. I’ve also become more interested in exploring alternative or supplemental art settings beyond the gallery, such as in books, e-magazines or web spaces. 

 

 

 

Shannon Faseler

 

Austin Woman: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

SF: I have always made art, since childhood. It wasn’t until college that I decided to pursue a career in art, knowing that no other pursuit would do.

 

AW: What is your favorite work spot where you can let the creative juices flow?

SF: I am lucky enough to have a well-appointed studio in South Austin. It is the perfect environment for my research-based practice: quiet, climate controlled and stocked with two studio cats.

 

AW: Your work revolves mainly around climate change and its visual effect on the planet. Tell us more about your artistic thought process.

SF: Making art, I fell anxious, frustrated, exhilarated, satisfied, worthwhile, futile, ambitious, reluctant, exalted and sublime. Viewing art, I feel unworthy, inspired, confident, engaged, hopeful and worthy.

 

AW: What do you enjoy most about the Austin art scene?

SF: This is a vibrant local art scene that supports and engages with local artists and the community. [There are] many artist-run spaces producing interesting work, as well as noncommercial and commercial galleries [that] are doing the same.

 

AW: What are you plans after At the Edge?

SF: [I plan on] continuing to work in my studio on new paintings and drawings, in addition to attending an artist residency in Iceland this January.

 

 

Rebecca Rothfus Harrell

 

Austin Woman: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

RRH: I have had an interest in art since I was a little kid. I loved art class in elementary school. My parents fostered my interest in visual art and taught my sisters and I to appreciate music, dance and theater as well. As a family, we visited the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh regularly. Spending part of a day in an art museum was part of every vacation I can remember. I took summer and weekend art classes, in addition to the art I had at school. When other high-school kids were sleeping in on Saturdays, I took pre-college art classes for fun.

When it came time to make a decision about college, I took a leap of faith. I decided to go to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I could immerse myself completely in studio art and graduated with my BFA in 1999. In 2004, when I got my MAT in art education from Tufts University, I suddenly found myself full circle, only now I was the art teacher. I have an amazing balance in my life right now where I get to make my artwork in my studio, but when I go to my job [as an elementary-school art teacher], I am lucky enough to be teaching kids about something I love.

 

AW: What is your favorite work spot where you can let the creative juices flow?

RRH: I feel most creative when I am out exploring the landscape or in my studio. I travel to the Big Bend area of Texas quite often, and I just love the landscape in West Texas. As I hike and drive around the area, I find inspiration in the land formations around me and in the scale of it all. I also have spent time in Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains are just as mesmerizing to me. In the summer of 2015, I had an amazing opportunity to do a month-long residency at the Banff Centre in Canada. The Banff National Park and Lake Louise area were unbelievably inspiring. I still go back to images and memories from that residency and ponder the fact that those massive mountain formations were once part of the ocean floor. The slow passage of time recorded in those layers of rocks and fossils, combined with the vastness of it all, is so overwhelming.

My studio is filled with inspirations as well, from artist monographs and books on minerals to my own mineral collection. Having a space where every tool or supply I need is within arm’s reach is something that energizes me. When I go into my studio, it gives me permission to let go of everything else and focus on my art. I rarely bring a computer with me, so there are no distractions.

 

AW: What do you enjoy most about the Austin art scene?

RRH: The Austin art scene is growing, changing and adapting, just like the city as a whole. The numbers of visitors I see at Canopy during the East Austin Studio Tour and during Art City Austin tell me that many people in this city enjoy looking at art, are interested in learning about the work and also enjoy buying art when they feel a connection to the art or the story behind the work. We just need to get more of those folks coming out to the art shows, openings and events happening at other times of the year. Overall, I feel hopeful. I’ve seen the Austin art scene go through ups and downs since I moved here in 2005. Some of the organizations or galleries that may have struggled in the past have come out stronger, redefined. I get the sense that more individual galleries, museums, nonprofits are coming together to work as a group to better the overall art community. There is more being talked about in the media and in City Hall about keeping the arts alive and well in Austin. Change and growth certainly have challenges, but I believe it can also bring new perceptions of the importance of art and cultural institutions.

 

AW: What are you plans after At the Edge?

RRH: The Wright Gallery was gracious enough to give this group of five artists the opportunity to show together for the first time. This is a talented group of women to work with and I would love the opportunity to do so again. Perhaps we will find additional locations to host the exhibit in the future.

With regard to my individual work, I will continue to make work in my studio as I prepare for the East Austin Studio Tour [Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20] and my next solo show with Camibaart Gallery in 2017.

 

 

Exhibit Dates and Hours

The At the Edge installation will be on display Sept. 13 to Oct. 12. The Wright Gallery is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and weekends by appointment.

 

Exhibit Location

The Wright Gallery, College of Architecture, Texas A&M University

3137 TAMU, Langford Architecture Building A, College Station, Texas

Directions to the gallery are available on the College of Architecture’s website, arch.tamu.edu/inside/getting-here.

 

Headshots and artwork images courtesy of artists. 


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