Interview with Michelle Wiener, Ryman Arts 2000
What have you been up to since graduating from Ryman Arts?
While studying at UCSB, I worked my way up from Assistant Curator at the UCSB Women’s Center Art Gallery to Head Curator. Through this job I was able to become familiar with the installation process, contracts, public and media relations, fund-raising and overall upkeep of a gallery space. Not only did we work with local artists, but I ended up showing artists nationwide. I then went on to attend Otis College of Art & Design’s MFA program.
How has your work evolved since Ryman Arts and how is it now evolving in graduate school?
Ryman Arts gave me the basic skills needed to execute ideas. Now that I have the ability to draw and paint, the hard part arrives: Content. Content does not always emerge from skill, but I believe that an artist should have an agenda to communicate, and s/he should be able to communicate it well. Ryman Arts taught me how to create. Graduate school taught me why artists need to create as well as how our work functions once it enters the social realm.
What is your artistic process from inspiration to production?
I start with observations and doodling in my sketchbook. Reading also triggers ideas. Once I find an idea, I research it, with further texts and images. I normally begin with a reference image, I play with composition, color, medium and scale. Every part of the work has to be thought out, because it will drastically change how the piece is received. Remember to take breaks and when to stop. When it’s not fun or gets tiring, stop and come back later. It’s just like working out a math problem.
How have interactions and relationships with fellow artists informed your work?
I have learned how imperative it is to have a group of artists to bounce ideas off of, argue with about theory and philosophy, and to grab a sandwich with. The energy keeps you excited to get back to the studio and produce. It also informs the work and helps you learn to speak about your practice as a whole.
What about art making convinced you to pursue art as a profession?
I don’t think I would be happy doing anything else. It is amazing to have a practice that is entirely independent and yet part of a greater community as well. I want to be a part of the discourse art creates.
What about Ryman Arts lured your back as an active alumni member?
Ryman Arts was one of the best parts of my high school experience. It was an incredible opportunity, and I feel like I want to give back to the organization and people who have helped me grow not only as an artist but as a person. In some ways the people at Ryman Arts have seen me grow up.
What is your vision for the Ryman Arts Alumni Association?
I would really like it to be like an artists’ club, where we can come collaborate, offer connections, do group shows and have fun together, sharing memories about Saturdays at Ryman Arts.