Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m an instructor at the Alberta College of Art + Design where I teach in Printmedia, Fibre and First Year Studies. I enjoy teaching and even when I don’t, I get some great stories to tell about frustrating people doing weird things. I’m also the current president of the Alberta Printmakers’ Society because I love print and believe it to be a vital and spectacular medium. Non-art extras: I am a 2nd dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do and currently train as a light blue belt in Shorinji-Kan Jiu Jitsu. I also have a small parrot named Charlie who gives me enough stories about his over-enthusiasm and minimal vocabulary to pepper the most boring parts of my demos with hilarious anecdotes thus saving my students from droning-on demo hell. He also often asks “What are you doing?” which reminds me to get off Facebook.
Where did you study? What kind of an influence has this had on your practice?
I completed my BFA at the University of Calgary and my MFA at the University of Alberta, an all-Alberta all the time schooling. My BFA gave me a work ethic and a foundation in print. My MFA pushed my practice out of where I was comfortable and into diverse ways of visual thinking. Many of the connections that I made and experiences that I’ve had continue to influence my practice. I’m much less afraid about trying new approaches to making making work and try to consider what medium best suits my concept rather than trying to force my concepts into one medium or another simply because I like it.
What have you been doing since graduating?
I have been learning to re-invent my practice many times over, trying new ways of making work. I was the technician at the U of C for a couple of years and have now taught at ACAD for the past six or so. I’ve volunteered on the board of A/P for six years and taught in community centres. I’ve travelled when I can and have been through parts of central America, Asia and Australia. Its such an amazing way to get out of a rut and to just experience new things rather than worrying about the same old same old. I was invited to sit on the jury for the 8th Biennale Internationale D’Estampe Contemporaine de Trois Rivieres this past fall which was an amazing experience. The entire process was conducted in french which will please my grade school teachers greatly. I even gave an artist-talk in french which was a bit strange as certain concepts and words don’t quite translate but thinking about my work in such a concentrated way and working out new ways to speak about ideas (especially when the words don’t flow as easily) was an excellent experience. I’ve also done the usual boring grown-up stuff like get married, buy a house and invest in RRSP Mutual Funds.
What are some of the significant themes and ideas in your work?
I have worked a lot with miniatures and am interested in the concentrated way that we can project ourselves into these small spaces. I’ve been working lately with making work where the inside and the outside aren’t clearly distinguishable. Blurred spaces have this way of indicating both abandonment and invitation (since abandoned spaces are ones that you can explore) and I like the juxtaposition of very modern looking architecture with natural elements. In both my prints and my sculpture I try to create a sense of collapsed time, where its difficult to tell if a space is in the process of being built or torn down. Much of my recent work is a response to these cookie cutter neighbourhoods that are so popular in Calgary. I lived in one for awhile and the most interesting places were the ones under construction so I started trying to save them from becoming as boring as the structures next to them in my work.
What struggles do you face in your practice? Do you have any insecurities while making your work?
Time. Specifically, finding enough of it. It would be great to be able to work (or relax) instead of sleep but I hear meth has some serious consequences so I will just continue as I am. The exhibition that I currently have up at Stride was a departure for me as it involves electronics and programming language which is way outside of my comfort zone. In making it, I kept having large pauses in making the work. I was unsure of it and what to do with it. In general, there’s always the little awkward voice in my head that repeats phrases like: “is this interesting? Is my work moving forward? Why can’t you stop eating Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt?”
Who are some other artists whose work you are interested in or influenced by?
David Hoffos’ work made an impression on me a long time ago and continues to impress me with its inventiveness and immersive qualities. I love Julie Mehretu complex images relating to the city. Doris Salcedo’s complex tributes to disappeared people move me greatly and exemplify the power of everyday objects to make strong statements. Sean Caulfield’s prints and collaborative projects push the limits of print with beautiful, strange images and technical prowess.
What kind of music do you listen to while working in the studio, if any?
I mostly listen to podcasts in the studio as the repetitive nature of print making is well suited to listening to stories as you work. My favourites are This American Life, 99% Invisible, The Memory Palace and Planet Money. When I need to concentrate more, I range from Max Richter, Joanna Newsom (engaged to Andy Samberg WHAT) and the Tune Yards to music with a dancy beat like Azealia Banks and Jay-Z (despite my inability to relate to the life of a p i m p) to get me through late-night printing sessions.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Calgary? Places to eat? Galleries to visit? Way to spend a day off?
I am mostly a boring homebody as it allows me to re-charge and get work done; I am chronically busy. I also have a tree house in my yard so that I can spy on my neighbour’s pigeons (true story: he raises show pigeons and racing pigeons) so my house is pretty interesting to me except when I have dishes to do (which is almost always so take that how you will). I make the circuit of artist-run centres when I can and have a few restaurant faves such as The Coup, Namskar and Shikiji.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
My work is currently being shown in the Project Room at Stride Gallery (www.stride.ab.ca) until March 22nd (the work was funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts). My work is in some touring exhibitions right now including BIMPE VI (next stop Kelowna), Global Matrix III, and the 8th British International Miniprint exhibition. An exchange exhibition between Taiwanese printmakers and Canadian printmakers is currently being organized by Guy Langevin in Trois Rivieres and is just in the beginning planning stages for 2014. I also have prints at Pomp and Circumstance in downtown Calgary if you want to see some of my work in real life.
I web it up at www.hhuston.com. Find me and Charlie on twitter @heatherhuston.