Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Joan Stuart Ross: SEATTLE

Artist Joan Stuart Ross
photo: L. McConnell

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were any early influences on your work? 

I grew up in Roslindale, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, and went to The Conley School, the Longfellow School and Boston Girls Latin School. I think my sense of ‘myself as artist’ began in kindergarten, when the teacher praised me to my mother for my profile drawing of an angel. I remember that I loved my second grade teacher, Miss Toland's, dress of red roses on a black background. In fifth grade I drew a mural of Little Bo Peep with colored chalk on the sewing class's blackboard (I was not allowed to take Manual Training/Woodworking because girls were required to take sewing), and, in sixth grade I won a commendation for a watercolor painting of a nasturtium.

The Vast Perhaps
12x12encaustic, collage on wood panel
I also remember making a 'Book' about a kitten who lost her mother in the forest. Girls Latin School deemed Art a "frill," but an art teacher came in once a week. In 10th grade I won an after-school scholarship to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Public School Art Program. On Saturdays, my Dad drove me into Mass Art for a mask-making class that I loved. I was thrilled to be in real Art classes!

An enduring influence on my visual development were childhood summers spent at White Horse Beach, south of Plymouth, MA, where my family had a cottage. I loved the yellow sun, the white sand and the blue ocean.

Je t'adore
11 x 15.25"
encaustic, collage on wood panel

Did you receive any formal art training?

At Connecticut College in New London, CT, I double-majored in Studio Art and Religion. I received a graduate scholarship to Yale Divinity School; I took Josef Albers' Color class and Gabor Peterdi's Printmaking class at the Yale Art School. In the mid-sixties, Yale was a bastion of male chauvinism, so — after a year I left to attend Art School at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. I'd heard about Iowa's Poetry Workshop and about its famous Printmaking Professor, Mauricio Lasansky. I received an MA and an MFA in Painting and Printmaking there, spent a summer at the Jane Burr artist's residency in Woodstock, N. Y, and then moved to Seattle, where I’ve been living and working for four decades.

12 x 12
encaustic and collage on wood panel

What is your current work about?

In my work I experiment with visual ideas in a manner similar to the scientific method. My work begins, changes and returns to its roots over time. Trial, error, chance and plan lead my eye and hand. I look for an uplifting sensibility in my use of materials and in my visual decisions. I examine the spirit of physical, mental and emotional places, their metaphysical properties and mysteries, and how we inhabit them. I create non-linear narratives that celebrate light in its dominion over potential opacity.

Pink Rose
encaustic, collage on wood panel
Some of my inspiration draws from the Great Basin’s windy “high lonesome,” the Northwest’s fog and mist, the ecstatic race of surf and spume and the subtext of items from personal history.

My work is obsessive and repetitive. I layer, carve, scrape, assess and reassess. I paint with encaustic, oil, and use the intaglio process in layers of medium, embedded collage, and incised expressive lines filled with color. Layers of tangents and trajectories connect, cross and convene to reveal what happens on and underneath the surface.

8 x 8"
encaustic, collage on wood panel
My current work has evolved from my interests in color dynamics, collage, encaustic and the acts of piecing and inlaying — all engage as subject matter and as the underpinnings for my imagery.

What is your workspace like?

In the Seattle studiophoto: B. Savadow
I have two studios, one in Seattle and one on the SW Washington coast. My 1000 sf Seattle studio is at BallardWorks, an artists' workspace building that I helped to develop ten years ago. The other is a 600 sf studio in Nahcotta, a village on Willapa Bay, on the southwest coast of Washington state. My husband, 5 cats, a dog and I go to and from Seattle to the coast when we can.

Nahcotta studio exterior
Nahcotta Studio Interior

How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

BallardWorks, my main working community, has 20 individual artist's studios and two art-related businesses. It's a community that I helped to create and that I work with two other artist partners to sustain. We recently prevented the City's officials from rezoning our block and raising the taxes of our affordable artists' workspace building.

I'm also a member of Salon #1, a critique group of nine artists who have met once a month for 15 years. We discuss our work and organize its exhibitions. We’ve recently shown together at BallardWorks and at Baas Gallery, Seattle. We're scheduled to exhibit "Off the Grid" at the Columbia City Gallery, Seattle, this spring, and are presently applying to show at the Kirkland Art Center and the Bellevue Art Museum.

Mariposa II
encaustic, collage on wood panel

I taught Art at the college level for 42 years, and recently retired from 13 years as a tenured professor in North Seattle Community College's Fine Arts Department.
Prior to that, I was a nomadic professor for 28 years, running like a chicken, teaching part-time at 4-5 individual institutions, including in my own studio. I also worked as a waitress and interviewed for the Census Bureau. In the '70's I was the first teacher of Monotype Printmaking in Seattle, having attended a workshop with Nathan Oliveira where he printed several layers, one over the other. I carried that idea forward, using 30-50 layers. Now my original students' students are teaching this technique! I continue to mentor former students, artist colleagues and students.

This coming June, I’m happy to be invited to speak at the 8th International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, MA as part of a Panel, “The Roots of Contemporary Encaustic.”

Thank you, Joan! You may see more of her work on her website.

1 comment:

Flying Selki said...

So great to see this interview and see some of your encaustic collage work. It has some overlaps with my seams dreams series only yours has much richer color orientation while my series was more monochromatic.Anyway I love the texture and layers or your work and hadn't realized that you had a studio on the coast.