Britny Wainwright, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of June 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Britny some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: Please tell us about your background.
Hi, I’m Britny. I grew up just south of the Finger Lakes region, in Owego, NY. It’s refreshing to not have to describe where the Finger Lakes are!
I attended Alfred University, receiving my BFA in 2012. In 2017 I received my MFA from Ohio State University. While both degrees are in fine art, I concentrated in ceramics for both of them.
I now live and make work in Columbus, OH. I first moved to Columbus for graduate school in 2014, and have stuck around for the amazing creative community. I love living in a vibrant city, and Columbus has many great opportunities for artists! I teach as an adjunct instructor at Ohio State and Capital Universities, and maintain a studio practice.
Q: How long have you been making artwork?
The earliest memory I have of my obsession with material and making things, was a field trip in preschool. I think it was some sort of career day, but what I lost my mind over was the sand art table! The scratchy sound the plastic spoons made dipping into containers of brilliantly colored sand has stuck with me. I think this experience was the first time I realized making art could be something primary in my life.
I really got serious about being an artist in college. I was very fortunate to attend a fantastic undergraduate program in art — Alfred University’s School of Art & Design. It provided me with a well-rounded art experience, and ultimately I concentrated in ceramics, although my secondary was painting. My minor was in art education, and I even finished my teaching certification before decided to pursue graduate school for an MFA.
Q: How would you describe your work?
I’d have to say my work is a granny’s dream of ugly couches, and floral prints, plus material play? Most of my academic training was focused on ceramics, and it deeply influences my work, but I now maintain a much more hybrid practice of ceramics and fiber. I find both of these mediums, plus painting, are necessary to speak about the content in my work.
I am an artist because I have things to say. As a woman the very act of making work is a feminist act. I try to not discredit my voice before I speak! Placing floral pattern, stitching, embroidery, and bright colors in the gallery is an act of celebration of feminine things. I question the authority of these things in gender and art, and the conceptual consideration these practices receive, or don’t.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
It depends on what I’m making, but most certainly heavy-repetition is guaranteed. When I make works that require ceramic motifs, or tiles as I call them, I start with producing them: rolling slabs of clay, cutting motifs, defining and drilling holes, drying, firing, etc. I then build the structure and stitch on the tiles by hand before upholstering. Ceramics is a long process and sewing is quite the opposite. It’s instant gratification! I’m able to walk into my studio and finish a piece in a few hours — totally unheard of in ceramics.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I’m starting a new body of work I’ve long wanted to make: examining women’s patriotism in America. I will be visiting Seneca Falls, where the Declaration of Sentiments was signed in 1841, demanding that women have equal footing with men under the constitution. I’ve also been collecting visual resources from the 1976 Bicentennial — in particular home decor. I’m intrigued by the trend of domestic patriotism of this time. Especially because women’s public patriotism is sometimes misunderstood as un-American! This local historical research paired with studio explorations of patriotic motif will leave me with a new body of ceramic and fiber work that grapples with women’s patriotism in America.
Also, I’m lucky enough to be able to install a new exhibition in the second floor gallery entitled, power. I will be showing a new ambitious sewing piece, and several other recent works. Exhibition reception is on June 14th from 5-7pm, and artist talk at 6pm!
Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
I love DC. The variety of museums is astounding. The East Wing of the National Galleries is good, in particular the Matisse room. The Freer & Sackler is also great, I took a lot of non-western art history courses in college. A lot of very important ceramic history can be found in China, Japan, and Korea, so the Freer is almost always on my checklist. I also love the Lincoln Gallery in the American Art Museum. The Hirshhorn for really great contemporary stuff. Oh, and The Phillips Collection, that Wolfgang Laib beeswax room- drool worthy.
Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
In particular to artists thinking about going to graduate school — take time off after undergrad. Those few years are so valuable. I worked as a server, an assistant cook, a substitute teacher, a house sitter, etc. If you power through to graduate school, I’m not sure you’ll really convince yourself why you want to be an artist. That floundering will make you appreciate graduate school so much more!
Q: What’s next for you?
I have quite the busy summer! After my residency at Main Street Arts, I will be a visiting artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Arlington, VA for the month of July. I hope to finish this new body of work while in residence there. I also have some upcoming shows for the 2019-20 season! Follow my social media for more information.