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Christina Massey

Christina Massey

Tell me a little bit about you!

I'm a Brooklyn based artist, originally born and raised in Northern California and a NYer for about 15 years now. I went to a liberal arts state school in California where I got my BFA, and when I graduated I packed up my whole 2 bags of belongings and took off for NY never looking back. While I thought about getting an MFA for a quick moment, that moment passed quickly as I realized I had no desire to teach, and no desire to go that much in debt. So it hasn't been the typical path, but it's been my own.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?

Good question. I really don't know. I had a mom that supported our creativity and always had stacks of old papers we could draw on the back of around. I even had an easel as a kid and I would go outside and paint watercolors. However, I grew up where there were no museums, no galleries, I knew no one who was an artist, and my parents did not have original artwork in their home. But for as long as I can remember I just knew I wanted to be an artist. Or that I simply was an artist. There wasn't ever a question in my mind that I might not be. I checked all the stereotypical boxes, felt like an outsider to my peers, check, had no interest in math or science, check, not the prettiest girl in school, check....lol. I checked plenty of non-stereotype boxes too however, so I'm joking, but point being it's not something I think I "discovered" it just was.

What ideas are you exploring in your practice?

In the last year my work has really grown. I had the opportunity to do a residency and I thought to myself, if I'm going to do this, why would I do the same thing I could do in my studio at home? I purposefully brought different materials with me than I had ever used before I forced myself to explore working differently. And I loved it. This is when I first began making the sculptural work. It was a natural progression from my previous work, but such huge growth in what I was doing. Now, again, I feel like my work is changing a little. I had been awarded a generous fellowship at a printmaking workshop and have been exploring working 2D again all summer. I'm very eager to get all this work back into my studio and really pull it all together. It's an exciting time.

What is your process like?

I'm a very intuitive creator. I react and respond to the materials in front of me, making decisions as I go that push the medium to different possibilities. I often don't understand the meaning entirely until it's done. I'll have an idea in my head, or something multiple ideas, but then I get so involved and focused on the creation that that's all I can think about. When I'm able to step back, look at 4-5 finished pieces together it's like looking into my subconscious. The connections back to the original idea have often morphed a little but by sheer material and process tend to always link back to my original focus. 

In terms of process, I tend to work on multiple pieces at a time. There is so much process in general in my work, that if I"m feeling stuck in one, I can move to simple stitching another, weaving something for future use, or even preparing materials to be used later. There is always something to do in my studio. There's never a dull moment.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

I don't know if it's advice per se, but it has always stuck with me. When I finished my BFA one of my mentors, a faculty member I greatly looked up to turned to me in my final critique and said, you know, I'm having a hard time with critiquing this work right now. I see this work and I see my competition. You're going to go out into the world now and I'll be competing with you for shows and opportunities. I was so honored and thrown. I never saw myself as competition to those so much older and more experienced than myself. I had a hard time believing it at first. So my advise would be to never let your age or your "inexperience" make you feel like you're less than anyone else. The art is the art. Regardless if you have an MFA or a GED, 80 or 18.

Describe your studio.

I have a studio with the non-profit group Chashama. They are able to get large spaces for under market value and pass those savings onto the artists, which in NYC as you can imagine, is a pretty big deal. It's about a 20 minutes walk from my apartment which is wonderful, with a bus that drops off right outside if it's bad weather or I'm carrying heavy things (because most of us NYer's don't own cars.) It's a nice community of supportive artists. We have an open studio event coming up in October where the doors are open to the public which we do once a year.
 

What do you find most challenging, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?

For me the hardest part is the business side. The marketing, updating my website, writing and re-writing artists statements, photographing work....all those things that you have to do that take time away from my actually making work. That's what I love, to create. But if I don't do those other things, then I can't get my work out there. So I schedule time. I try to get all my emails, social media posts prepared and done first thing in the morning. I'm an early riser, so that's typically all done before 8am, sometimes even 7am. Then each week I have one day that's scheduled to focus on the stuff that takes more time and concentration like putting together applications, updating images, submitting for grants, researching opportunities etc. Sometimes if it's not that demanding on my brain, I'll do this from the studio so that I an at least get a layer down that can dry while I type or simply sit and look at the work and be in it's presence while I decide if it's finished or not. This way I can do two things at once.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

Can I make it a dinner party? I personally am inspired by inspired people. If I could get the Forbes top 100 most powerful women in a room for a party, could you imagine the conversations and energy that would come from that room?! I think it's a shame that the majority of that list are people that no one knows of. They're passionate about what they do and making a difference in the world. And since money plays such a big role in how Forbes makes that list, I'd throw in others like the Black Lives Matter organizers, Malala Yousafzai because money doesn't determine devotion to cause.

What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?

Since there are so many steps and stages to creating my work, if I'm feeling stuck on something I can easily just cut up some cans, or create a weaving and be productive with that time. But if I'm feeling unmotivated and tired, sunshine and exercise does it for me every time. I live in Brooklyn, so going out to nature isn't that easy per se, so I go for a walk in a park, or sit where I can see the water, feel the sun on my skin, watch the boats and ferries go by. Let my mind not think for a bit. Meditate. Relax. Then return fresh and ready to work again.

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

I don't feel I have one medium. I am truly a mixed media artist. I paint with everything from watercolors, acrylics and oils to enamel paints, use paper, canvas, linen, fabrics and metals. I love a new challenge. Trying a material I've never used. That's a good part why I love found re-purposed materials, is that they offer a new set of challenges with each material. They hold paint differently, the results vary, but through process, whatever the medium is, I will make something that feels like my own.

What do you need or value most as an artist?

Time. 

Even when I had no space to create work, I couldn't help myself, I still did. I've made work on rooftops, used my bed as a table to create, had a tiny little desk in a corner devoted as a place for my work to be made, and none of those limitations stopped me from making work, large work too. I made whole solo shows from less than about 6 sq/st of space. 

Even when I've had no money for supplies, I could find materials, supplies were donated to me, I found ways to re-purpose what I already had. 

But time. I have to be really purposeful with my time. I don't have it to waste. With all my other responsibilities it's easy to get over whelmed. I worked a full time job over the summer while doing a fellowship at the same time that required 20/hours a week, plus my art studio requires a minimum of 13/hrs a week to maintain good status. This on top of various other commitments and putting on 1 solo show, 2 curatorial projects, 1 2 person show, and 1 group show....time. Time is insanely valuable to me as an artist. I have a couple weeks right now to relish in the long studio hours focusing just on my work which feels so luxurious.

What keeps you creating?

Everything and nothing. External validation is always nice and can be a great ego boost to get you in the studio making, but if it's not there, it's not like I don't create. I create to feed my own soul I guess. Yes, I want others to see it, experience it and I feel that completes the artistic process really, but if it doesn't, it doesn't stop me. I'm constantly having ideas. Ideas on how to approach a material differently, explore it's possibilities, approach it in a new way, the options are endless!

What are you working on right now?

Currently I'm working on some much larger work that I've made in a really long time. I'm combining my painting practice techniques with the sculptural approach and even incorporating some of the techniques I've learned at the printmaking fellowship. They're these huge, 5.5" x 6.5" x 18"d pieces that really combine all the processes I've been using in the past few years. That and finishing up getting ready for another solo show in January and of course the 2D series of print collages that I mentioned earlier at my fellowship.

Find more at cmasseyart.com and on Instagram @cmasseyart!

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Brian Jerome

Brian Jerome

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