Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ten Minutes with Kristi Abbott, Artist from Down Under

The artist in her studio.
While doing a walkabout at the Bayfront Art Fair two weekends ago I came upon an artist from Australia who three years ago moved to Minnesota and decided to make a go of it here in the States. Her work drew me in and I mentioned her on my review of the event early last week. She graciously consented to an interview.

EN: For starters, can you just share a brief overview of your life, and how you came to make art as a career?

Kristi Abbott: I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, to an Australian mum and a Minnesotan dad, so it was no surprise that I spent many of my holidays making the trip to St Paul, Minnesota. Many a Christmas was spent in the snow building snow kangaroos and sledding down a loge run! My grandmother and aunt are both artists, so I have been surrounded by art all of my life. My parents were and are very supportive of the arts and encouraged my sisters and me to dream big and follow those dreams, wherever they may take us. It was three years ago, after a career in the corporate space, that I decided to pursue my dream to become a full-time artist. Sydney is very expensive and I was craving a fresh start, so I decided to move to Minnesota to embark on my new artistic adventure.

EN: You seem to have developed a unique approach. Please describe your work, what you do to create the images you create.

KA: The work that I am creating now is based on a pretty complex process. It is what I describe as mixed media collage, using a mix of papers, adhesives and other materials. Firstly I decide on my subject matter and then I spend a lot of time trying to figure out imagery that relates to that subject, whether it is a person or a landscape. Once I have an idea of what I want this to look like I bring everything together in a master template that I then work from to 1, print my imagery onto specialty papers, and then 2, cut all of the various pieces (200+) from. These pieces are then layered and arranged, similar to that of a jigsaw puzzle, in place to create the final image.

EN: Who have been your influences? How did you get into taking this approach?

KA: Although I had done some pieces in collage some years earlier, I stumbled upon this approach again when I was making studies of a larger series I was working on 2 years ago. I was working with paper then, but my main medium was acrylic paints. I decided to experiment with a study all in paper for one of the pieces and it was highly successful, inspiring me to continue experimenting with works all in paper from that point. As far as inspirations, there is definitely a pop art flair in my work and I have definitely borrowed some ideas from Warhol and Lichtenstein.

EN: Your Dylan piece is an example of how you research and tell stories beyond merely making images. Can you describe the details in this piece?

KA: This is a piece that I only finished a few weeks ago and it was a tough one for me to do at first. It is part of my Pop Icon Series. I had a lot of requests for Dylan, being that he is Minnesotan and has a huge fan base here. Although definitely familiar with his music and his career, I am by no means an expert, and I really didn’t want to upset any one by how I portrayed him! So after much thought and conceptualizing, I decided to approach the piece from the perspective of an artist looking at another artist’s life – their influences, tools and great works. Within the Dylan piece are hidden images illustrating the various musical styles he’s been influenced by over the decades from gospel and folk to rock and roll. There is also imagery that shows the musical instruments that he has played, including the harmonica and keyboard. Then in his hair is imagery and symbols that relate to the titles of some of his most well known and loved songs, such as “Blowing in the Wind”, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times are a Changing”. Also hidden in this piece are the town name Duluth and a map of Minnesota to show his heritage, and a peace sign and trailing line of cigarette smoke to highlight a few of his values and idiosyncrasies.

EN: Besides cut-out collage work, what other media have you worked in?

KA: I have worked with oils and acrylics, however I find that I can’t get the same crisp line with a paint brush that I can with a scalpel!! I also love the texture of paper and the variation between the different types of papers that you can access today.

EN: What tools do you use to make a picture? What kind of surface are originals affixed to and what kind of adhesive, too?

KA: Tools that I could not survive without now are my special cutting tool that slips over my finger and operates like a pencil, my cutting mats, glue (Mod Podge) that I use to adhere and seal all of my pieces, and tracing film, that helps me draw and cut out all of my various layers. Rather than work on canvas, I create all of my works on birch wood panel as the surface is tight and rigid.

EN: How often are you on the road? How often do you show your work at shows?

KA: This is the first year that I have chosen to participate in art fairs, and I’m really enjoying it! I love road trips and discovering new places. I have also been making a special piece of work for some of the fairs that I have attended, featuring local icons as the subject, and that has been a lot of fun. It has been a busy summer with fairs taking place at least twice a month. The summer is definitely prime time for shows in the mid-west. Then in October/November and then again in February/March I will be travelling down to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California for shows down there. I feel that it is really important to get out in front of an audience as an emerging artist. I hope to continue to do shows for a few years and build my customer base around the country. My younger sister also sells my work at a large weekly art market in Sydney, Australia.

EN: Where can people see more of your work?

KA: The easiest place to find my work is on my website – www.madebykristi.com. However, nothing beats seeing the work in person, so a great place to meet me and see my work is at the St. Paul Art Crawls that take place twice a year. The Fall Art Crawl is coming up on October 10-12th and my loft will be open all weekend. For more information people can go to - http://saintpaulartcrawl.org/. I will also be showing at the 2015 Fall Fine Art Festival taking place in Stillwater on October 4th and 5th.

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Meantime, art goes on all around you. Dig it.

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