Librarian by day, artist by night. The loud part of Kris Swenson’s quite-loud existence is getting a lot of attention these days as the Arlington artist takes part in her first New York group show at Art Raw Gallery. When she’s not producing visual art pieces in a variety of media, she holds down a day job at one of the University of Texas at Arlington libraries. And, oh yeah, she’s also been a singer in a variety of local bands for more than a decade. So how does she find the time and energy to maintain all the facets of her life? Swenson answered that question and more as part of this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Art&Seek: You seem to be everywhere these days. You’ve got a piece in the current Art Hotel show. You participated in Firehouse Gallery‘s final show, which ended last week. And now four of your photographs (below) are in Art Raw Gallery‘s Inaugural Exhibit. It must be thrilling to make your New York debut.
Kris Swenson: It’s beyond my wildest dreams. I mean, that’s a stupid thing to say, but it’s just really exciting. I’ve done other shows before, but to get into the Chelsea district of New York, it’s really cool.
A&S: How did you get into the Art Raw show?
K.S.: I heard about them almost accidentally on MySpace. I was reading about their inaugural show and thought, “Hey, that sounds like a cool, cutting-edge gallery.” My work is a little edgy, and I figured it was a good match. … I submitted and asked if they had any slots and they said go ahead and send us a submission. And hours later, I got back, “Your in!” And I was one of 300 picked out of 25,000 submissions.
A&S: Holy cow – that’s a lot!
K.S.: That’s when I freaked out and thought, “Oh my God, this is really cool.”
A&S: You describe On a Personal Note, your piece for Art Hotel’s “Love Songs” show, as being by far your most personal and vulnerable body of work. Why is that?
K.S.: It is because I actually explain it [in an artist statement]. … My concept was, I’m not going to put up a really nice photograph of a heart saying “I Love You.” That’s a little trite, and I wanted to do something different. So I thought I would test the waters and try and materialize a piece based on all these kinds of love – friendship, family, lovers, ex-lovers and passions that are inanimate as well. The concept was in my head and sort of brewing around anyway since my dad passed away last year, but it really just materialized one day in my head. I think with the artist statement it defines it a little more clearly. Typically, I like for the viewer to look at it and get what they get from it. This time, I kinda wanted them to get what I was feeling – things that people may not know about the piece. … It’s one of those pieces of discovery.
A&S: You work in printmaking, sculpture, painting, drawing, collage and photography — am I leaving anything out?
K.S.: I do assemblage, video post-production and installations.
A&S: What is the thinking behind working in so many media as opposed to just focusing on one?
K.S.: I don’t want to say that it’s an A.D.D. kind of thing, but I was the kid with the box of 64 instead of 16 Crayolas. I needed the five shades of yellow versus just the one or two.
A&S: In addition to your visual art work, you also sing, correct?
K.S.: Yeah, and that’s where my writing comes in. I’ve done that for 12 to 15 years – it depends on what you count as singing. I’ve done session work, I was in a band for a little over 10 years … I’m currently in a project call the Gretchen Von Fetchen Trio.
A&S: How would you describe your music?
K.S.: As varied as my visual arts. There’s not much difference between visual arts an music. I just like to be expressive, and so there’s part of me that likes being at the computer in my apartment and working on assemblages and photography and digital compositing and video editing – which is a complete time vampire. I get to maintain my moon tan from sitting in front of my computer. But then there’s part of me that likes to be out and performing in front of people. Because otherwise, what’s the point of doing things if no one’s ever going to see them, you know?
A&S: Amazingly, among all these ventures, you still have a day job.
K.S.: Yes, I have a day job. My life is full of dichotomy, really. I work in a library during the day, and then I’m Gretchen Von Fetchen. That came about at a burlesque show – they called me up onstage for an amateur performance and gave us all nicknames, and the people I was with, who I’m in the band with now, loved that so much that they said, “We have to call this new musical project Gretchen Von Fetchen.”
A&S: How do you find the time?
K.S.: You know, I drive myself crazy. It’s a constant wishing that I had 28 hours in a day. But I make the time because it’s one of those things where I don’t think I have a choice over it. … It’s fun and it’s my passion, and it’s something that I can’t live without doing.
To see more of Swenson’s work, visit her Web site, strangefamiliar.com or her MySpace page.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.