STUDIO VISIT, GYAN SHROSBREE
AT MAPLE TERRACE, BROOKLYN, NY
I visited Gyan while she was a guest at the Maple Terrace Artist Residency in Brooklyn, New York. The program is run by the very generous artist Leah Guadagnoli. If you aren’t yet familiar with the new residency, I highly encourage artists that aren’t based in New York to look into this unique opportunity to engage with New York art and artists.
The Maple Terrace Artist Residency Program provides emerging artists the opportunity to have an affordable and inspiring place to live and make work in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to a rigorous schedule of studio visits with our Guests of Honor (influential artists, curators, gallerists, and collectors) Resident Artists will also be mentored by the foundation’s founder, Leah Guadagnoli.
WHERE DO YOU LIVE AND HOW DID YOU END UP AT THE MAPLE TERRACE RESIDENCY?
I live in Fairfield, Iowa where I teach at Maharishi University. We have great BFA and MA programs with a small but well qualified Faculty, including my dad, Jim Shrosbree who is actually my boss – the Chair of the Department; and a close friend from college, Sean Downey who has just joined our team this year. We have a sweet little set up there.
I met Leah Guadagnoli at Yaddo about three summers ago, she was my neighbor in the Mansion. She would leave me funny little notes and I loved her immediately. We have stayed in touch, and followed each others work since 2015. Leah invited me to come and do The Maple Terrace residency a few months ago, and it worked out that I could come for 3 weeks.
DO YOU HAVE ANY GOALS OR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR TIME HERE IN NY?
I am interested in connecting with people who show work, curate work, and make work here in New York. Leah has set up a really nice schedule of visitors, and I am adding to the list as time allows. I have chosen to bring work that is already made because I have plenty of time and space at home, but not as many opportunities to share the work. In terms of goals or expectations, I guess you could say connecting with people and sharing my work are at the top of my list. I did bring watercolor paper and gouache to make little paintings, which would be totally fun If I have time, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself in terms of making work.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR WORK IS ABOUT OR WHAT DRIVES IT?
The idea of memory has been really coming into my thinking about the work. I see the paintings as a stacking of memories that relate to the experience of moving in a fast car in a country like India or Mexico where you are hit with so much visual stimulation and they play almost like images piling on top of each other. You see landscape and people and beautiful crazy colors and light shifts and fabrics and architecture and even tarps. You come away with this overwhelming and beautiful memory. That is kind of how I feel about the making of these paintings.
Color, texture, material and reflectivity. These are all important to me. I use all kinds of materials, but I am always thinking about paint. I like approaching the canvas as a body. A body or the front of a body, like paper dolls. When I was in grad school, I made clothing—clothing on bodies and it didn’t look so different from my work now, but it was mainly clothing in the front with just these ties in the back. I sort of like the underbelly of things—the back of things. But like to keep it mostly hidden, with glimpses to draw you in. I’m not afraid of beauty, but I also like the tension of it being ugly or off-putting. That place where beauty can be disgusting (and vice versa) is a place I like to land in my work.
My work is not directly about any one thing, but I have definite influences and interests that sort of run parallel to the making of my work. Obviously what is going on in the world can’t help but come into my studio. As a person and as a woman, that seems impossible to ignore. Nothing is literal, but the emotional charge behind my work seems to be colliding with a larger conversation
YOUR WORK SEEMS TO EXIST SOMEWHERE BETWEEN PAINTING AND TEXTILES, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS?
I absolutely agree. I think about textiles all the time. I love to look at them and surround myself with them. I am very interested in quilts and rugs and tapestries of many different cultures both past and present. Not only the way they look, but what it takes to make them. The processes that go into making them. I use a lot of those processes in my own janky way—I mimic the process of weaving or sewing in all the wrong ways.
These paintings function with the possibilities of referencing quilts or heavy blankets. The bagging and sagging demonstrates an inability to control the materials entirely. Another possible read that I am particularly excited about is each painting living as an abstracted item of clothing. Flamboyant dresses. A huge closet filled with brightly colored dresses. Walking into your closet and choosing what to wear.
YOUR MATERIALS ARE REALLY ACCESSIBLE AND NON-PRECIOUS, WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS DOES FOR THE WORK?
I think the materials give the work an edge. A lot of the materials that I use are often things you might find at a hardware store, or a dollar store or a packing supply store. They are recognizable but then used in such a different way than their initial purpose. They are utilitarian — things like tarps and tape that then become these kind of over the top bedazzled and bright paintings that are both fancy and frumpy all at once. Like are they coming together, or are they falling apart? Are they made for an occasion that has passed, or are they new and ready to go on a wall in a gallery? I think the materials give a viewer a point of departure for looking and potentially invites people into the work who might not feel comfortable otherwise. Something that feels familiar and hopefully inclusive.
HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING WITH YOUR STUDIO PRACTICE WITH YOUR DAY TO DAY LIFE?
I treat it like a construction job. I don’t have an option. It just isn’t an option—I have to practice what I preach because that’s what I constantly tell students. I’m kind of a workhorse in the studio, and I have a really tight routine because you have to as an artist, as you know. And when you have jobs and life and family and everything else, you have to try to at least get in there everyday—even if it’s just 15 minutes. Generally, I’m in there longer than that! I have a big studio on campus, which is next to the student studios, so I can go in there when I’m working with them and also work in my studio.
So there are different kinds of studio activity, but if nothing else there’s always a busy work task I can do. I feel lucky because I do get in there pretty much every day. I really do think about it as a job. That has to do with how I was raised, what schools I went to—there was just never an option of thinking about whether or not you could be creative. The mentality really is that it is a construction job, and I don’t think about feeling inspired or not. I believe the work leads to inspiration. I often tell my students that you have to set your studio up in a way that’s going to keep you there, meaning that you can’t have just one thing going on. I always have to have at least two modes. One example could be the big tarps and the paintings, or it could be drawings and small gouaches. Whatever works for you. There’s also a speed at which things have to be done. Sometimes you have to be very slow and listen to it and it needs to talk to you. You don’t want to push it at certain points and ram through. You have to have all the different things going on in order to keep you there. Or at least I do.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF YOUR ART PRACTICE? HOBBIES?
I try to exercise—I very much enjoy that. I feel like that keeps me feeling good mentally. I’ve become a person who needs a good routine. I go to bed early, I get up early—I feel like that’s the only way I can get everything done. I don’t have enough time if I don’t. So other than exercise, it’s having dinner with my husband or family—his parents or mine. We all live in the same town. I’m very much involved in my family life. This summer, my dad was building a studio so we all helped with that. We are always doing some kind of renovation on our building as well. Of course it’s also important to hang out with friends. I feel like I socialize more when I leave town—probably because so many of my friends live elsewhere, either in NYC, LA, or TX. The socializing often surrounds art in one way or another. Going to peoples studios, openings, looking at artwork and talking about it. I travel quite a bit for art related things. I try to stay informed and connected to the greater art world. I see as many shows as possible, artist talks, studio visits, I read and watch a lot of interviews with artists and other related things. I come to New York to see shows for work and otherwise.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SHOWS OR PROJECTS COMING UP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO PROMOTE?
My sister-in-law has a clothing company, Torrey Witherspoon. Her stuff is beautiful, and we’re doing this collaboration where I’m painting on the fabric and she’s making shirts and dresses. Our instagram is @gyanandtorrey. That’s been fun!
I am also excited to promote our new MA program at Maharishi University. It is a one-year program for people who want to get their work to a place where it is ready to apply for an MFA program. We are reviewing applications for Spring 2019 right now. The priority deadline is November 15, however we do review application year round.