Earlier this year, the Iris team was able to catch up with local artist and U.Va. alum Kiki Slaughter. A short article, culled from our interview with Slaughter, who is featured in the Talent Show, will appear in the Fall 2011 issue of Iris: A Magazine for Thinking Young Women. The extended text of our interview can be found below.
How would you describe your art and/or artistic philosophy?
My work is best described as an experiment with the fundamental process of painting. I pour, scrape, layer and otherwise manipulate paint on the canvas to create work that is rich in both color and texture. When I begin a painting I do not always have an idea of the finished product in mind. Instead, I find painting to be an organic process in which the act of painting itself and the physicality of materials I use are both muses and methods for my work.
What do you find most challenging about your work?
I would say that the most challenging aspect of being an artist is the pressure to create on the spot. I am lucky to have rarely experienced a painter’s version of “writer’s block” but at the same time, I sometimes find it difficult to finish work when I am under a lot of pressure. Deadlines for shows or commissions can be stressful and a contradiction to the flow and freedom of artistic expression. However, these things are part of being a working artist, so I have learned to set my stress aside when I am in my studio and just paint.
What motivates you? Inspires you?
I am inspired to paint by the very act of painting. In this way, my method is often my muse. I am also very inspired by my visual surroundings. Thus, my work often evokes the places I have lived and visited. I strive to interpret and record my impressions of the world around me through my use of color and texture. Although my paintings are abstract, each piece maintains subtle characteristics from its source of inspiration. My studio is on a farm set in the heart of the picturesque Charlottesville countryside. With the Blue Ridge Mountains and hunt country as my backdrop, there is no lack of inspiration for my work. I am also particularly influenced by the lingering beauty of the pristine beaches of North Carolina. I often incorporate beach sand and even dirt into my work from these places and others to add texture and to throw a bit of physical inspiration into my work.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
I love what I do and that is the biggest reward anyone could ask for. I work very hard, but I am excited to go to the studio every day. I feel lucky that I have been able to make a career out of my passion. Another rewarding aspect of my job is making an impact on others. I love to hear how my work makes people feel. It is a huge compliment to hear that a painting makes someone happy or reminds them of an experience or memory. It is incredibly rewarding for someone to love your work and want to have it in their home.
What would you tell an aspiring artist at UVA looking to venture into the greater art world?
I would tell them to have confidence in their work and to be determined to succeed. When I was a student at UVA, an artist spoke to my art class and told us that only one or two of us would actually be able make art our career. I made a promise to myself that it would be me. Having confidence in your work is of utmost importance because being an artist comes with a lot of ups and downs. There will be people who doubt that you will be able to make a career out of making art and there will be galleries that turn you down or never even give you a chance. But if you believe in your work and in yourself then others will too. It is hard work, but it is worth it.
How, if at all, did your experiences at the University affect your life path? career?
My UVA experience has had a major impact on my life and career. The University is a huge part of me. I grew up in Charlottesville and my family has a long history with UVA. Going to The University was always a goal and a dream of mine and I am so happy that it came true. I met my husband at UVA and made many lifelong friends. My experience also groomed me to be the artist I am today. The Art Department at UVA is superb. My teachers encouraged me to think outside the box and find my own unique expression. I developed my style at UVA and credit my teachers for helping me find it.
Does gender come into your conception of yourself as an artist?
Although I am very proud to be a female artist, I would not say that my gender has any real influence on my work. That being said, I did have a show in 2004 that was inspired by the house where I lived with six other girls during my fourth year at UVA. My roommates let me use the spare bedroom as my studio. One day, when I did not have the money to buy more paint, I decided to use the house paint that was left over from my roommates painting their rooms. Then, I went upstairs to the attic and found buckets and buckets of more paint that had been left behind by girls over the years. The colors were bright and happy and very inspiring. I completed an entire series with all of the found wall paint. I called the series, “The 2U series, If These Walls Could Talk”. (The address of the house was 2 University Circle, a.k.a. “U” Circle).
How do you think people can become involved in art in their community?
Go to openings, go to galleries, join art groups. In general, meet people involved in the arts and create a network.
To learn more about Kiki and her art, visit her website at: www.kikislaughter.com
All images courtesy of Kiki Slaughter.