July 19th, 2022
With a show opening this coming on Friday the 29th, Shawna Moore responded to our interview questions — and delivered a gorgeous show of new encaustic works. Enjoy her responses, and meet the artist in person for her artist reception at the end of the month.
How has your time in Hawaii influenced your latest encaustic work?
This last trip to Hawaii felt like I was completing a circle. I had first experienced the joy of surfing 20 years ago in Hawaii, and although I have only been actively chasing this sport for the last seven years, it has interested me since my first encounter. My family also completed a cycle with the graduation from college of my daughter, Pixie. Hawaii has been an integral part of our lives since she moved there four years ago. Now she has completed the first part of her college life and plans to carry on living in Hawaii. The water element has certainly crept into the work in the last five years and Hawaii is partly responsible for that. In the simplest explanation, the connection of the physical body to the ocean and the visual experience of being in the water becomes embodied and reflected in my artistic practice. Also, water is such a great metaphor for many elements of life, shifting sands, crashing waves, rising and dropping tides, ripple effects, and the ebb and flow of the natural world and time.
What does Movement Patterns mean to you?
When I consider the way that Nina [Tichava] and I make paintings there is a similarity between how we lay down paint and experience and react to the result. These patterns emerge from the physical action of our engagement with art materials. Because we are different people, in different places with different ideas, the paintings are quite varied and individual. These are movement patterns! As a person who tries to consider the nature of mind and the experience of being alive, the patterns of movement around you can give some insight into reality. The spin of the globe, the movement of the stars, and the changing of the seasons helps us bear witness to the nature of change. Not doing and slowing down is also important, and perhaps not doing or non-movement is of equal value. That could be the next show title!
How do you feel about supporting women in the arts?
Supporting women in the arts is one of my favorite subjects. It is so important to be aware of how the history of the arts has been shaped and retold mostly by men. This is both true and false as we know that women have been really creative over the course of time. Women’s work was not considered high art but upon reflection, some of these utilitarian items or pieces are clothing could not be created by many of us today. The Gees Bend quilting tradition is a good example of this or the black on black pueblo pottery of Maria Martinez. Over 20 years ago, I made a conscious choice to research and pay more attention to women artists. I still love Richard Diebenkorn and Mark Bradford, but I also have spent time looking at Susan Rothenberg, Julie Mehretu, Rita Ackerman, Agnes Martin and other interesting women artists. I have a small group of women artists in my area and I try to be supportive and curious to what is going on with them. When I travel I usually loan out my studio space to another woman artist. Currently I am mentoring an Indigenous woman artist from Wyoming who an artist friend introduced me to. She has so much talent so I won’t take any credit for that but I like to believe I am helping her with emotional support and the business side of being an artist. We all need that.
Have you as a woman felt supported in the art work?
Not always, even though my mom was an art teacher. There are two sides of this right? Art was in the house and we were encouraged, but art was important…it was almost a sacred activity done by magicians (mostly men) who were somehow gifted (albeit crazy and broke) and we were not them. Except we are! It took me a long time to come to the understanding that we are each making and breaking the mold that will ultimately lead to our unique formation as a human and an artist. The power of how women think, this creative capacity that until recently has not had much of an opportunity to thrive is gaining momentum. After Black Lives Matter (#BLM) I began researching BIPOC women artists and I was blown away by the creative potential and outpouring from those communities. It isn’t fair that society makes you prove yourself more or that the playing field is uneven, but some of the artists I discovered are so incredibly good and brilliant that I began to see it as the result of having to work harder to succeed and be seen. It was a wake-up call for me to continue to strive for equality and recognize that I may have been coasting on the access and privilege that I had, and guess what, the bar was being raised really high up so that everyone could get in. It made me work harder and hopefully better knowing how fierce other women artists were becoming.
Where do you find your strength and tenacity to overcome obstacles?
I think I am very competitive. I am the oldest of three kids and I was always playing sports. However, at one point in my life at the end of my university life, I was really dropping the ball, metaphorically, and it was horrible. I just couldn’t get any momentum. Once I got myself sorted out I became a bit paranoid about getting things done and succeeding. Now, nearing 60, I think if I keep things simple and in perspective, I can do most things. I do tend to procrastinate but I overcome that by consistency. Michael Kessler told me once that he was “relentless,” in the pursuit of his craft. I don’t operate with that same vocabulary but I do try to keep kicking the can down the road and I try to stay curious about where the can goes and who else is out there kicking cans with me.
Do you have a devotional practice outside of making art?
My studio really is a sacred space for me. I go there sometimes just to return to myself and hear myself think. Occasionally, I will take a nap there or even watch a movie. But then usually I get interested in something I am working on (that is the beauty of having a workspace with things in various stages of evolution). I do have some mindfulness practices, like meditation and yoga, but I am not rigid about it. The practice of art making really is like a mind/body discipline. There is intention and the passage of time. There is also faith and doubt. There is a creative cycle where you have an idea that you begin chasing, maybe abandon, then resurrect and bring to completion. It doesn’t happen with every painting but occasionally one will come along where it feels like your entire life is held within it. Surfing, skiing, biking, hiking, swimming, sailing, cooking, reading, music, time with family and friends are all devotional practices for me. I am devoted to living a full and interesting life.
A big and gracious Thank You to Shawna Moore for her vivid and open-hearted answers.