This interview with Cherie Buck-Hutchison was really fulfilling. I love Cherie’s dedication to women’s quality of life. Read about her experiences and creative process below!
How did you first discover your creativity and begin finding creative process?
My older brother painted and sold his work in galleries. He taught my older sister to paint. So I knew either one of them would teach me if I asked for their help. My mother was a crafter; mostly she knitted and crocheted. I can remember learning to knit with a string and two pencils when she was teaching the neighbor lady to knit ambidextrously. The neighbor was left-handed; at that time, there were no instructions for knitters other than right-handed manuals.
My ambidextrous mother would knit in one direction, turn the piece over, and knit from the other direction. She taught the neighbor to knit from the left side. I was sitting on the kitchen floor listening to mom repeat the same steps over and over. The lady was having difficulty grasping the process. It made me curious about whether it would be hard for me to learn how to complete the steps. The yarn and needles were in use, so I improvised. The neighbor finally learned to knit as a lefty and I learned to knit ambidextrously.
Later when I went to school, the teachers were always telling me stop drawing during class time. But I received a lot of encouragement from classmates who liked to watch me. Drawing became an outlet that later led to exploring other media. Eventually I found my way to community college where I studied under some great teachers. I earned an intermedia fine arts degree at Arizona State University and added performance and video to my practice.
Throughout my entire life journey, there have been many factors that contributed to my interest in art. I needed an expressive outlet, and drawing gave me that. I was raised in a strict religious environment that actively condemned academics and endorsed art as something one does after the apocalypse. The religion was millennial-oriented and believed there would be a thousand years of peace and security following the doomsday belief of Armageddon. Besides finding a way to provide basic necessities such as shelter and sustenance, time was believed to be best spent warning others. Things such as art, education, career pursuits and possessions were all goals to be reevaluated after Armegeddon.
There was a rebel in me that needed art. I was harshly chastised by church elders for taking a life drawing class. It was a traumatic experience. Looking back though, I realize it was a pivotal moment for me. It helped me to consciously decide whether to create art or stay under the radar and have art as a secret hobby. The very next day I purchased a book on life painting. I chose art.
Does your environment affect your art?
Everything affects my art. The planet’s environment is a huge influence. I am very concerned with the lack of care given to the planet that sustains us and our future generations. In many ways, it’s parallel to how women are treated as a resource in capitalistic societies like ours.
My personal environment is also an influence. As my life goes on, it becomes more complicated. I have a lot of things going on at once, but that really fits my personality. I like to use my mind regardless of what I am doing and so I enjoy thinking about a variety of things while physically working on something different.
Often, I think about the inter-connectivity of my art mediums in the context of an art concept. When I experience or hear about an incident that contributes to the marginalization of women, I am usually doing something else. But this theme has a way of gestating and showing up in my art practice.
You’ve just had a series of exhibits of your work Conjuring the Consecrated. Could you talk a bit about the project and why it was necessary for you to make it? What was your process in preparing for the exhibit and did you have any concerns about sharing something so personal with your audience? Did you face any criticism?
Conjuring the Consecrated is a series I have been working on since 2012. I used pictures my parents took during my childhood to superimpose women into positions of leadership within a church setting. My art series serves as a stand-in for the broader narrative about women’s rights and their role in religion. Because of my background, I am well-positioned to examine this topic through art.
The subject matter lent itself to incorporating humor and whimsical magic. As an artist, I found this technique more appealing than attacking patriarchy aggressively. I have had more fun approaching it this way, as well. This is a subject that often gets swept under the rug because some fear repercussions for offending those entrenched in patriarchal systems of power. But women are offended by how we have been and continue to be made invisible, socially conditioned to conform, told we need to be led (protected) and even have our bodies governed by someone other than ourselves.
I think every artist has to face their worst critic: themselves. Because I have been a recipient of extreme marginalization through religion, the desire to speak up for women overshadows concerns I might have about how the work will be received. I think this is a conversation that is long overdue. This work has been favorably received. During the exhibitions, I have had a lot of fascinating conversations with women about their aunts, mothers, sisters, etc.
My process is to professionally scan the 35mm slides my parents took. I use software to digitally manipulate and create meaning through overlaying two images. I spend a significant amount of time searching for two images that will communicate together and still fit within the constraints of the project. The imagery can get quite complex due to the layering of people, landscape, signage and sometimes vehicles. Some things overlay beautifully, like the wallpaper pattern against a snowy mountain in “First Coed Elders Meeting at the Loveland Pass.” Other images have had to be reworked many times before I get the effect I want.
I always have a test print made. Things can seem insignificant on the computer screen in comparison to print. I like to live with the new test piece for awhile, revisiting it to make sure I am okay with the nuances. A misplaced hand can send a very different message. Conversely, there is a looseness that I enjoy. For example, the photos with watery overlays speak volumes. I seem to use them often. Although I showed the work a few times, I’m still finishing up the series. Next year I am debuting at least four more pieces. One piece, which has has a vintage car, has challenging technical issues to work out.
What are you working on currently?
I am preparing for a solo exhibition at eye lounge Gallery called, Bony Processes: Intonations for the Unnoted. Opening reception is on May 20th from 6 – 10pm. The show runs through June 13th, 2016. I am interested in the formal combination of audio and/or video with poetry. In this show, I will incorporate sound poetry with installation and ceramics And I am finishing the series I mentioned earlier in the interview. For summer, I am hoping to continue working on a ceramic and salt vessel series I started last year. Beyond that, I have a series on the topic of shunning that has been slowly making itself manifest to me over several years.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed working on multiple projects at one time?
No. I love it! I have a lot of energy and a strong sense of commitment. Also, I like to see results, so I will stay with a project until it is done. Unless I do what I set out to do, I cannot disconnect my mind from it. I think it is important to analyze each project after it’s finished (and sometimes at process intervals) to assess what can be gleaned for the future. Knowing that I am growing as a person and as an artist is exciting and keeps me progressing. However, I do limit how many commitments I can handle simultaneously.
Instead, I plan ahead in a non-linear manner. The best projects are when one intersects with another and I can grow one while also making another. For example, 7 new images on the topic of shunning developed while I was working on the Conjuring the Consecrated series. It doesn’t always work that way, but it is nice when it happens.
How do you balance supporting yourself financially with personal art exploration? Do these two worlds often collide or relate? And how do your different pursuits interconnect?
Many things seep into my art eventually – in one form or another. In the past I have worked in the art world. I earn money through art sales and teaching workshops. I also have years of working in the tile contracting field. Additionally, I make the original prototypes for high relief backsplash tile. I use fine art skills such as sculpting and casting but the product is unrelated to my fine art both conceptually and visually. The only place where the two collide is through sharing the work space area.
What makes one person an artist and another, not? Do you think artists should starve? Do you think our society supports artists, and should it?
The only difference is desire. If one wants to be an artist, it entails creating art in some form or another, even if it is just conceptual. If the desire is there, the art will be made.
I do think society needs to appreciate artists more financially. I don’t want to be a starving artist and I don’t know anyone else who does. In addition to being the ones who hold a mirror up to society, the financial contributions artists bring to communities are immense. There is significant research showing the large contributions of revenue from festivals, galleries, art events, etc.
Art-related jobs are diverse: curators, museums, administrators, professors, critics, publishers, advisors, grant organizations and the list goes on and on. Those professions all collect a paycheck. There is some money for artists. However, the competition is strong because there are a lot of artists and there is too much de-funding of the arts.
What challenges have you faced in your creative process? How do you stick with it when the going gets tough?
Tough is a relative thing. I was raised in a cult. That was tough. As a result, I learned tenacity. Things do not always seem like a challenge to me because they don’t include a harsh lifestyle requirement. My biggest challenge is having enough time to make the work. I choose my social events carefully in order to fit everything into a day.
Art-making allows me experiences I might not otherwise have. Including poetry in my process of art-making does something that continues to engage me on a deep level. I think we are all looking for moments where we can experience wonder and awe. Reading good poetry as well as writing my own can jumpstart my art-making. That desire to go into a topic rich with content translates into my art.
When I can, I just get started on the work. Going through the creative process of making art opens the door to what I am really making. Often there is no shortcut. And the results are always different than where I started conceptually. That is interesting and it’s exciting to have an unknown outcome. That’s why I incorporate poetry with audio/video; it helps me get to what is really in my heart and mind.
Are there any ideas you wish you had time to act on but haven’t yet? Do you think it will become possible to act on them in the future?
Yes, I definitely have a lot of ideas I am hoping to develop in the future. I think the strongest ones will dominate my thinking and be manifested. Some concepts just keep revisiting me regularly.
What do you expect from your audience?
What I hope is that my audience gets a broader viewpoint. As an artist, I can only make the art and let it live in the world. Viewers brings their own experiences and knowledge to the work, which shape their interpretation of the art. As I am working on a project, I hope for good conversation surrounding my work. That sort of encounter is fruitful on a long term basis because how we think shapes our society’s culture. Also, I enjoy the feedback from my viewers; it helps shape my perspective as well. A conversation between the maker and viewer can continue for a very long time–many years in fact. Only time reveals what that becomes.
Tell us something we don’t know about you yet:
Sometimes as I awaken, I catch several song lines with music playing in my subconscious mind. I have googled some of them to see if they were already songs or not. They weren’t. Truly, I really don’t know anything about music.
Cherie Buck-Hutchison’s interdisciplinary work meets at the intersection of new media and traditional art. She summons the use of her feminist imagination to reorient spatial and social boundaries. Video, ceramics, performance, installation and poetry are some of her mediums. Recently, her Southwest childhood imagery has made an appearance in her art via red rock configurations and canyons.
Buck-Hutchison has a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in intermedia from Arizona State University. She is a member and former co-president of the art collective, eye lounge.
Some of her performance experiences include The Glendale Jazz and Blues Festival, Frontal Lobe Gallery and Live Art Platform. Her work has been shown at Phoenix Art Museum, The Shemer Art Center and Museum, eye lounge Gallery and Bokeh Gallery. See more of her work on her website or check in with her on Twitter or Instagram.
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