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AS IS | Mallory Shotwell


From Grand Rapids, Michigan, US

Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan (US)

We spoke with incredible Mallory about her art journey, creative rituals, the importance of art education, tips for beginners, and much more

Artist's note: Work in progress.

A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you into art?

M: I am a mother, interdisciplinary artist, curator, and teacher. I am grateful to work with all of my passions within the art field.

A: What inspires you the most?

M: People inspire me, honestly. Stories and the complexities of the human spirit. We all carry so much. We are all encyclopedias of wisdom and experience.

A: Do you have any specific rituals while working(creating)?

M: Concerning ideas for a body of work, I have to sit with a concept for a while. Meditative almost, I have to live in the idea for days or weeks before I move into making anything. I try to think as sensorily as possible - how can it be accessed? How can it be felt or seen or heard?

When I am in a space of making, I definitely have to schedule and remain strict about studio hours. It’s easy to see the dirty dishes or consider all the things that need to be done, but I give myself one day a week without appointments or the to-do list, and I dig into that space of making. Because of this, it’s usually for 8-10 hours at a time, and it’s a deep zone/meditative space of being with the piece I’m working on.

A: What would you recommend to someone new to art (whether an artist or just an admirer), what to begin with?

M: I am so fortunate to be able to teach art, so I support people who consider themselves beginners and people who have never really done art before. It can seem incredibly intimidating or daunting to look at the workaround and think “I could never do that.” But it’s not about “achieving” something - it’s about the making. It’s about the time you give yourself to create. So this is what I recommend to everyone and remind my students of frequently.

A: Your top 3 adjectives related to art?

M: Challenging. Invigorating. Inspiring.

A: The best angle to look at art is from ..?

M: All angles, every angle. Far away. As close as you can get without touching it. From every side. Examine the texture, the movement, color. Ask yourself if you like the piece, and why. Is it significantly different if you are close, or far away? What does the piece mean? As a curator and teacher, I love and encourage all perspectives and angles.

A: The perfect phrase to start any conversation about art is:.?

M: What do you see? (Because it will be different for everyone, mostly. Every answer is valid, and it’s the conversation about art that matters the most.)

A: Must-read books to help us talk about art (or do we even need them)?

M: This is a tough question. My art career stems from an academic environment, and education is the thread throughout my entire career. I love it and believe in it. However, education can be a factor in exclusionary behavior, thus gatekeeping art and artists.

I believe that education can and does support a person, artist or not, in their art growth and development. Books on art history, critique, theory, and curation are critical. Education, or the lack thereof, can deter people from even trying art. It can even seem to denote more or less value as a person. I hear so often “I can’t even draw a stick figure,” but what is it that calls people to think they need to be experts in this field to even try it?

Art and art-making can and should be accessible. While we can advance to a level of showing in high-level galleries, it is also about the simple act of making, or even of giving time to yourself to be yourself. All of it has value.

A: If you could change one thing in the art world - what would it be?

M: The gatekeeping, exclusionary language, and behaviors of art, art-making, and the field.

A: Please, share your favorite quote (not necessarily related to art).

M: "To teach young children is to have one's faith in human nature constantly rekindled", Maria Montessori.

Thank you!

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