I joined artist Krista Kelley Walsh in her St. Paul studio last week, a gorgeous renovated garage with skylights, windows and transparent garage doors. Though a former ceramicists studio, it truly seemed like a place conducive to creating just about anything, making it the perfect for it’s new owner, Krista, an artist that leverages a wide range of disciplines.
I had the good fortune of having Krista as an instructor and have long known of her presence in the Minnesota art community, so it was a pleasure to sit down with her one-on-one and hear more about her diverse range of artistic platforms and the threads that run throughout her practice.
We began by discussing Krista’s project for the CSA program, which emerged out of a series of drawings created on lottery tickets. This conceptually stratified series is an indictor of the sense of humor in Krista’s work.
Frustrated by uncertainty in retirement planning and funding opportunities for artists, Krista jests that financial assistance for artists is so irregular that she may as well be playing the Minnesota lottery to secure her future. Many artists have likely felt similar; we’re lucky to have so many grant opportunities in Minnesota, but know that each grant cycle brings a new set of variables and recipients. Each year we clench our applications like tickets in our hands and wait for our notification letters like some folks hold their breath for nightly drawings. Krista takes this act of gambling a step further and sees the lottery tickets as a material for art-making. For the past five years she has purchased a Powerball tickets, her largest return only being a $7 win. While she’s only been able to claim about $25 in total wins, Krista is no long shot. She reverses the authority of the MN Lottery in by using the rectangular heat-sensitive paper as a drawing substrate, which allows her to turn her losses into tax-ductable artist’s materials. Win, win! Krista adds icing on her conceptual layer-cake by depicting symbols and personifications of luck as the subject of her drawings.
It’s this ability to find humor, obsession, and potentiality in ordinary materials and encounters that runs throughout Krista’s studio and interdisciplinary work. In Things Unseen, a recent installation at the Phipps Center for the Arts, she amplifies the seemingly ordinary phenomenon of a prism cast by a glass of water. Captivated and delighted by this small wonder, Krista lines the river-facing windows of the Phipps gallery with glass vases creating lenses for light that distort the Phipp’s scenic surroundings and turn the gallery into a meditative space of bouncing light, shadows and rainbows.
Krista understands the happiness that simple gestures provide. Tax deductible retirement plan aside, the artist is sincerely aware of her lot. She demonstrates her gratefulness in the performative piece, Gratitude Guerilla Action, in which she collaborated with artists and the public creating a walking ‘Thank You’ by silently handing out thousands of white balloons throughout the city of St. Paul, during the height of 2008’s recession. In this piece her presence and performance draw out the aptitude of the simplicity of the object.
She continues to engage material’s ability to be an agent for ideas, in multi-disciplinary pieces created around fictional characters. Krista speaks of one project emerging from the simple and delightful gesture of lining shoes with a global map. From this gesture a story and character are born: Odyssea, the agoraphobic fictional counterpoint to Odysseus – a fairytale character that the artist dreams up, plays in person and pairs with an exhibition of personal effects. A fable so detailed that an exhibition-goer pleads to take Krista with her on her next trip. Krista becomes a collaborator, corroborating with her objects’ fictions.
Perhaps most delightful and humorous of all, is Krista’s relationship with her current collaborator: her former self. Returning to object-based studio work, Krista had in interest to re-investigate all of the materials she had collected over the years with the intention of making new work from her archives. Of note, she began to revisit paintings and unfinished surfaces from over 12 years ago and described her experience reworking these pieces like meeting and having a conversation with her younger self, an endearing philosophy which brings to mind 20th century dialogues on staggered and convergent time. She approaches these works with fresh and also familiar eyes, indebting the demands of her performance work for her newfound ability to take compositional risks that her younger self may not have had the guts to do. As she revisits these pieces, collages and motifs fade out and reappear and reveal themes of humor, potentiality, new characters and delightful stories.
We hope shareholders will be delighted by Krista’s contribution to the 2012 CSA: Community Supported Art program, for which she editioned 50 prints of her Lucky Lindy drawing. In the spirit of chance, one lucky shareholder will receive the original drawing!
We welcome you to join Krista and fellow CSA artists to celebrate at the next Pick Up party on July 18!
Pick up party date: Wednesday, July 18
Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Silverwood Park
2500 County Rd. E
St. Anthony, MN 55421
Visual artist Alyssa Baguss (http://www.mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=136021)
Visual artist Krista Kelley Walsh (http://www.kristawalsh.com)
Photographer Andy Mattern (http://www.andymattern.com/)