Seven Questions for Amy-Claire Huestis

Greetings fellow Thrivesters! 

I've been invited to share my 7 artists, 7 interviews series on the Thrive Blog.  The interviews are great for comparing and contrasting the variety of creative approaches to problems and practicalities of an art practice.  Below you'll find the sixth artist that was interviewed for this series: Amy-Claire Huestis. She is new to Vancouver from several years in the United States, it is exciting to welcome her back to the city!  - Sunshine Frère

Amy-Claire Huestis makes a space to encounter the mysterious and to suspend a state of wonder in her interdisciplinary practice of expanded painting, light and experimental media. One of her unique projects is to pioneer the re-invention of the magic lantern projector. She brings the device and its form forward with the contemporary technology of plasma light and with her own painted and shadow-cut light pictures. With her seeing machines and seeing tools, she casts a historic and mystical perspective on the phenomena of the image. http://www.amyhuestis.com/ 

 

WHAT TYPE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DO YOU USE TO PROMOTE YOUR WORK, AND WHY DO YOU USE IT?

My close collaborator, Suzanne Déry. and I use a pair of rose coloured glass lenses.  They match, she has one and I have the other.   Sue lives in Scotland and I live in Vancouver, and this is a way make transmissions and share images.   So we are using optical devices as “seeing” tools.   

Over time we have worked with coloured glass in the landscape and black mirrors, the kind that show up in romantic literature and in wizardry, and were used for proto-photographic picture making. Kind-of like ancient Instagram filters.  

HOW DO YOU BRAINSTORM AND COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS FOR PROJECTS?

Right now I’m actively tracking the origin-place of ideas, it’s so mysterious.  We like to assign a story to our idea process, (I made this in this way, I made this about…) but really the ideas process is much more rich and strange than our stories tell.

Our culture tells us that art comes from a state of isolated genius, but this just isn’t true.  What I mean is that our creative impulses are collective, rather than being isolated to us alone as sole individuals.   We all share ideas and thoughts and a kind of cultural and environmental reckoning.  In my pieces I’m actively engaging with the collective mind, so my art is made in collaboration, whether I make it alone in the studio or in performance or experiential practice with other artists.  And I’ve found this active collective engagement to be so lively, there is an amplified state of emergence in it.  

The first action piece I made in recognition of this was a large watercolour, called “Open Space for the Guest”.  Tracing thoughts only of our common creative mind,  I drew a simple plaid pattern, 10 feet long, the brush strokes crossing each other.   As I drew for hours, thinking only of the collective mind, I listened to a piece of music by my collaborator, composer Omar Zubair.  This watercolour glows with a particular purity.  And after making the piece, something changed in the world around me -- human-made and designed shapes became magical, they look made of magic.  

HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIME IN ORDER TO ENSURE YOU COMPLETE PROJECTS ON TIME? 

I have a necessary kind of delusion when it comes to grasping how long it takes to do things – that is, I think I can do way more than is possible at any given time. But if I didn’t have this delusion, I wouldn’t embark on my artistic journeys because they are so time and energy consuming.  I take everything on, and then work long hours.  Being hyperactive and fast-moving helps. When I sold more work, I had an assistant.

 

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WISHED THAT YOU HAD LEARNED EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER THAT WOULD HAVE SAVED YOU TIME AND EFFORT? 

I wish I had listened to all the people who told me not to get an MFA.  I really believed in the dream of academia, but at the same time I wasn’t the kind of artist who would use the  MFA scene to turn my work into a marketable product or tool to enter the gallery scene. Not that there is anything wrong with that, more power to those of you who can do this. I just wanted to teach and though this is how I could do it.  

Instead, I could have gotten a degree from a non-accredited place or done a ton of residencies or just learned stuff on my own. I could have just hung around with friends in their schools and it would have meant exactly the same thing. (You can do this, simply attach yourself to a willing friend who is in graduate school and go to everything she goes to, attend her meetings, read her stuff).  An accreditation isn’t necessary, because there are so very few jobs in academia, or jobs you would want, and galleries don’t really care about your degree.

WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVOURITE PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? 

The wall of indifference to women artists is a heart-breaker.  I feel really terrible when I look around a table of underpaid art educators (outside of academia) and it’s all women, and all these women have wicked MFAs and Ivy League doctorates.   Or when I have to tell a prof that it’s not acceptable to present a syllabus with no women writers on it.   Or when I have to explain that women can be present in our telling of art history. Or when I try to live and show my art in a city (New York) that has less than 15% commercial gallery representation of women artists, heart break.   

WHAT IS THE MOST FAVOURITE OR THE BEST PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? 

I love evolving out of being an artist, into another kind of being, onto another plane.  I make art, and also I am part of something that does not have the name “art”.   I love things that are different and outside of what is standard, or normal, or known.   I love my collaborators and the things that appear and emerge for us.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE INTERESTED IN AN INTERDISCIPLINARY ART CAREER?

This is the same advice that I heard Roberta Smith give in a lecture to undergraduate art students.  Your undergraduate degree is a very useful thing, and it can prepare you for so much in your life, or bring you into many fields in the art world – gallerist, archivist, technician. But if you plan to continue as an artist, do this only because you have no choice. As rewarding as it is, being an artist can and often does mean a life of poverty and struggle -- we are just not culturally or economically suited at present to take care of artists in our society.  And the topper is we can’t regulate this market-driven system to provide equal opportunities for women and people of colour.  

In terms of being interdisciplinary, don’t listen to those who want you to neatly package your work into something explainable. Everything now is hybridized and inter-connected.   Keep trying to make things that have no definition (yet).

Magic lantern and Slides, Amy-Claire Huestis

Magic lantern and Slides, Amy-Claire Huestis