We’re so excited for the Vagaries opening on Friday! I caught up with some of the ladies featured in the show for a very short interview, and despite their insane work schedules, they were happy to oblige me. Read on for my chat with Carisa Swenson, Michele Lynch, and Allison Sommers.
Circus Posterus: How did you come up with the title and theme for the show? What does “Vagaries” mean to you?
Carisa Swenson: Given the varied nature of our mediums, styles and voice we each lend to our pieces, we felt it was best if we presented a title that didn’t trap us in a particular theme, giving us all freedom to create and follow our ideas wherever they took us. After tossing a few descriptive titles back and forth, we felt the word “Vagaries” (derived from the Latin “vagari”—wandering) best accomplished this. Using the definition helped push me to create new characters and forms as well as work with cast resin pieces.
CP: Did you all know each other already? If so, how did you meet?
Allison Sommers: Carisa and I know each other through mutual artist friends, she comes out to shows in the city every now and then.
Carisa: While both Allison and Kelly are NYC based artists, I only personally know Allison. We first met at a show opening in Brooklyn last year which we both had work in. As an admirer of Allison’s paintings, especially the altarpieces, it was quite exciting to finally chat with her.
Michele Lynch: I didn’t know anyone in the group, but I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone!
CP: Where do you draw your inspirations from?
Allison: Constant sketchbooking.
Michele: I’m inspired by fairy tales, flea markets, antique stores, a feeling, something someone says, Victorian society, so many different things!
Carisa Swenson: Animals and nature are huge sources of both comfort and inspiration. The works of Beatrix Potter and illustrator Bill Peet have always enchanted and influenced me, as well as the films of directors Jeunet and Caro (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children), the Brothers Quay and Ray Harryhausen, to the music of Kate Bush. Mythological tales of the trickster, and the desolation of old houses and abandoned buildings are never far from mind.
Allison, how long did it take you to perfect your colour palette(all those wonderful greys!)?
Allison: Over the course of the last two or three years– there was a point a few years ago where I was fed up with the palette I was using then– it was rather garish and story-book-ish– and decided to try to strip myself down to (near-) monochrome and build up again. I ended up staying with the greys (and their related greens) for the most part, and later acquired the particular reds I use now through a serendipitous art-material-accident.
Michele, how did you come across the steampunk influence in your work, and does it permeate the rest of your life as well?
Michele: The steampunk influence came about because when I first envisioned the sculptures, I could see them as half human and half mechanical, working for someone that had made them half machine, so adding machine parts to them came naturally. I wish I was active in the steampunk community! I think it would be so much fun to dress up in all those wonderful costumes! But sadly I just haven’t had the time.
Carisa, you’ve been branching out from your standard doll body shape, and it is delightful! Have you encountered any specific challenges with these newer designs?
Carisa: Thank you! Well, the sculpting isn’t an issue, but sewing up the bodies and clothing them has presented some challenges, most notably with the rabbit/bird hybrids due to the set of their wings and legs. Avian proportions add a whole new layer to the pain of sewing for me!
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