AIE Conversation Series: Monica Stroik

Artist Monica Stroik sat down with Art in Embassies staff to talk about her artwork and influences on her piece in the Ankara exhibition 2015. Produced in conjunction with Art in Embassies’ exhibition in Ankara at the official residence of U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John R. Bass

Full Transcript

0:02Hi, my name is Monica Stroik. I’m from Alexandria, VA.
0:09Why did you want to become an artist? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
0:17So I grew up in a family of artists, aunts and uncles and grandmothers. So it was very
0:26normal to receive art supplies as gifts. To go to art museums on the weekends. To learn
0:35different media from my aunts and uncles. And was also very influenced by the table
0:42conversations at dinner with my father who’s an architect and two brothers that ended up
0:48going into architecture as well. The exact moment of knowing when I was going to become
0:55an artist, it was always there. From when I was a child.
1:04Nature and pattern and repition seem to play a large role in your work. Can you talk more
1:12about your process and approach?
1:18So currently, my process involves being site specific. So I go to the location of where
1:27I’m going to be exhibiting the art work, a new body of work, and I do a lot of research.
1:33And that research involves drawings and photography, writing and sketching. And I compile all these
1:42different ideas and then go back to my studio lay them out and continue the brainstorm process
1:50of working with the ideas of space and place and thinking about the viewer coming into
2:01that space from a busy street depending on the site of the place.
2:08But thinking about the previous experiences of people coming through and wittnessing this
2:14space where the gallery is, and also thinking about the intersections of baths crossing
2:26and physcially and also intellectually.
2:33So then I begin to prepare the surfaces. I currently work on panel. And I begin to mix
2:42colors that represent those places. And I’m very drawn to the contrast of painterly vs.
2:54hard edge and perspective.
3:00Working with the space and the colors that I wittness in that place and space feeds into
3:06the actual work and what it ends up being. So there’s a very long process from the beginning
3:13to the end and what it ends up looking like.
3:22I’m inspired by a variety of artists. For example painterly artists such as Claire Sherman
3:34and Francis McCormick, also like her artists that create layers of contrast from painterly
3:44to gesturallty to hard-edge. And also artists that incorporate perspective in their work,
3:53like Dexter Dalwood and Mathais Wiesher and David Schnell.
4:00Has teaching changed the way you create art?
4:04So, I would say absolutely, because through the process of art making I find myself asking
4:14more questions. The kinds of questions I ask my students all the time. Like why am I using
4:21that particular color, why am I using that exact mark making? So asking more questions
4:29so I can get deeper and more at the root of the why and the how.
4:36How do you see the arc and/or progression of your work?
4:41So, I currently see my work as part of a loop (like that). Because when I was younger, when
4:50I started in undergrad, when I first started I saw myself as an abstract artist. Then I
4:57went and I studied in Florence Italyand became very obsessed with Landscape painting, and
5:05had some great teachers there that influenced me in that direction. So I spent probably
5:10the next 5 years painting landscapes, and that whole experience of being out in nature.
5:22Then, somewhere along the way, I took all the doodles I was doing in my sketchbook and
5:28threw them up on the wall, made them larger and started to become more of a gestural painter.
5:38So I went back to abstraction, and was very influenced by the C.O.B.R.A. painters at that
5:46At that point in time I felt that I had come full circle. That I had gone from abstraction
5:56back to abstraction. Now, having gone through grad school and getting my MFA I feel like
6:03I’ve taken another turn where I’m combing all of that past, but also pulling from this
6:12other part of myself which comes from my father and brothers who are architects and all of
6:24those conversations at dinner about space. So, I find it really fascinating and interesting
6:32to watch this development and am very curious to see where it takes me next.
6:44What is the toughest part about your job and what is the most rewarding part about your
6:53The toughest part is encouraging those students that do not believe in themselves, or trust
7:03themselves to become the artists that they can become. I believe everyone can become
7:09an artist if they choose to. So, that’s the hardest part – it’s getting them to see that.
7:18The most rewarding part of my job is defintely seeing the growth in the development, in each
7:27student. No matter how small or how large. And to spend so many years seeing these students
7:36grow, I feel its an honor and a privdledge to have that window into their lives and be
7:44part of that.
7:46In the age of the internet, people have more access to information than ever before. Art
7:53can reach across borders, waters, and time zones. What does it mean to be an artist today?
8:01So hopefully it means that artists are more informed and inspired by all the art happening
8:08around the world. And it means that artists can become more connected than ever before.
8:15It’s pretty powerful, to be quite honest.
8:19There’s the belief that the arts can play a role in society beyond the studio. How can
8:24artists bridge the relationship between global cities and the place they call home?
8:29I believe that the Art in Embassies program is playing a huge role in this aspect of showing
8:37work, bringing work to other cities, other countries, exposing people to other cultures
8:44that otherwise would never have been exposed.
8:46And then there’s other programs like sister city projects where artists will exchange
8:53studio spaces or have exhibitions in their city. Where they are bringing their art to
8:58a community that otherwise would never have been exposed to their work. Giving artist
9:03talks and through the internet, through websites, through online dialouge, through local organizations
9:10within communities that bring artists together to build the community and the dialouge.
9:19SOme of this is also through artists coming together and doing mural projects. Its really
9:25important that every city has an arts council, has ways in which their brininng the arts
9:31in to the community to create that culture, because without art there is no culture. So,
9:37a huge thank you, and a huge applause to the Art in Embassies program for all the work
9:42they are doing bringing art around the world and exposing all of us to eachother.
9:47How do you feel about your art being displayed in Ankara Turkey?
9:54So, what’s cool is that both my father and my husband have travelled to Turkey so even
10:02though I’m not there physically, just knowing that a piece of me is there is really amazing
10:11and I feel very honored to be part of this show. So, thank you so much for including
10:17my work.
10:21It was important for the Ambassador to have an exhibition from different points of view.
10:26How a single work of art is open to multiple interpretations. Describe or comment on how
10:32your work fits into that theme.
10:34My painting “Mercury”was painted from a very specific place – a very specific vantage point
10:39in Arlington Virginia. But because of the way that it’s painted, introducing arbitrary
10:45colors – the organge, the yellow and the way that the backgronud is painterly, it could
10:52be a dark stormy night, it could be water, it could be solid ground. So it’s very dream-like
11:00and ethereal in that sense. So the viewer that comes to view this piece, based on their
11:08past experiences, it could take them to a speicic place or it could take them to a new
11:16land to a new window into a new world. So this painting fits in perfectly into this
11:24A great work of art can reveal the world in such a way that we never see it quite the
11:29same way again. Major museums around the world are encouraging patrons not to actually look
11:34at the art, but to pose in front of it. Then, to share their own oh-so-artful self-portraits
11:40with the hashtag #museumselfie. What is your opinion of the selfie, and how it became a
11:49global phenemenon?
11:50So, to be honest, I’m actually really new to twitter this year and I don’t use it very
11:57often. But I really like the idea of the #museumselfie because it could generate a lot of conversations
12:05that wouldn’t otherwise happen, and also generate intreigue and propell people to go see exhibits
12:11that otherwise wouldn’t go because they’re seeing some little corner of something. Or
12:17maybe they just want to go and be part of that trend – the #museumselfie. But even so,
12:24it’s getting them to the museums, getting them to see these exhibits that they otherwise
12:28may not have seen, so I think it’s positive.
12:33Is instagram destroying civilization or making it totally awesome?
12:38So I’m actually also new to instagram this year, but I actually love it because I’m able
12:42to see the world through my friends’ eyes and to see things would have never seen. It’s
12:51actually inspired me to create a painting based off one of my friends posts. So, how
12:58cool is that?
13:01For the emerging artist, and the artist starting out, my advice is to keep creating your artwork
13:08no matter what and to find those opportunities, look for the opportunities, they will not
13:17come to you. Find those residenceis where you can keep growing within your work. And
13:26find those crit groups that you can find a group of people where you can feel comfortable
13:34sharing your work with to get critical feedback. I think the most important thing to remember
13:43is that you’re always growing. You’re always getting better, and your ideas are always
13:51evolving, so it’s a constant cycle of life and to never get stagnant and never stop,
14:03even when you don’t have ideas just keep sketching what you see before you.
14:12So, my best advice is: keep looking for the opportunities. Never give up.
14:20Thank you. It’s been fun talking to you.