Artist Veronica Bruce has just returned to the area after a month-long residency in Nida, Lithuania. Her experience there could likely shape the direction of her new works, which run the gamut from paint to sculpture to photography. Suburban Life Magazine editor Sherri Dauskurdas took a few moments to chat with the Hinsdale native about her overseas experience, her artwork, and her inspirations:
Sherri Dauskurdas: Describe your art to me, in your own words. Is there a common theme or element that is consistent throughout your collection of pieces?
Veronica Bruce: I work in units, which include paintings, sculptures, photographs or video pieces. Video is a new format from the last few years. These objects and images stand alone as autonomous works, yet when gathered together they create an interconnected network of decisions. These pieces are all created during relatively similar time periods and influence and refer to one another by materials, marks or underlying concepts. I’m interested in this relationship and the link of choices present in the process of making.
Most of my work, regardless of whether it is a three-dimensional object or painting, contains a balance between delicate consideration and physically rough manipulations or marks.
The concept of using what you have and responding to a certain scenario or the availability of materials is of interest to me. I believe I can create with hardly anything at all and with lots of resources. It doesn’t matter. I strive to maintain my same voice and vocabulary across all of the mediums I choose to work in. The theme of “using all of the parts” is prevalent in my work. This can refer to using up the collection of found objects and materials accumulating in my studio to the desire to use all possible marks from a loaded paintbrush. If I have excess paint on a brush, I find a use for it on another painting strewn across the floor or perhaps a found object from that pile of goods that will later become a part of a sculpture.
Sherri: You've just returned from Lithuania. Why were you there?
Veronica: I was accepted to Nida Art Colony in Nida, Lithuania for a one-month artist residency. My decision was influenced by my paternal heritage and the geographic location in a national park on the Baltic. It’s a landscape of pines, dunes, sea and lagoon on the Curonian Spit. I have discovered that I receive a lot of inspiration from the natural world, and being able to immerse myself in my present environment. This realization was inspired by a 2012 artist residency in Australia. I enjoy the time to fully focus on my work being away from home and how this experience impacts the work.
While in Nida, I continued a unit of work on which I’ve been focusing on since the spring of 2012, which relies on the concepts of repair, parts to a whole, reconfiguring mental patterns, and physical engagement to create change. I explored these ideas through the lens of place and my emotional reactions to being away from home and people I love. The ideas of the conflicting desires for connection with others and the desire for isolation became important in the work.
I wanted to use the influence of the landscape as symbolic of the beginnings of my family dynamic and of myself. I tend to use a lot of materials given to me from my family members in sculptures creating a link to the idea of the family line and how that impacts who you are as a person. Therefore, going to Lithuania had more meaning for me. I spent a lot of my time in Nida working on a sculpture of sewn triangular pieces of cloth, which retained remnants of my painting process. The gesture of sewing carries grace, frustration, and a sense of calm as it becomes a meditative action. This summer, I plan to attach this sewn piece to a similar sculpture in process at home, which I started last year, completing the work.
Sherri: What did you gain from the experience, creatively?
Veronica: I gained more perspective on how my relationships to others influence my work, but I think it’s too early to fully recognize all the ways in which the experience impacted me. It’s kind of like the subject of history, sometimes you don't have complete understanding or appreciation for a present situation until you have some distance and time to reflect upon it.
Sherri: You are both an independent professional artist, and an art educator. How do you balance one with the other, and how do both aspects of your career work in unison?
Veronica: The balance between the two has been fluctuating over the years. When I am teaching full time, time management is tight with studio practice, writing proposals, applications, etc. When I am not teaching, I have the gift of time but less stability with income, so it is a constant balancing act which I am learning. I think this balance will be constantly shifting through the years, sometimes teaching more or less to complement my studio practice. I began teaching yoga in Chicago over a year ago as a means to create some stability, with the ability to participate in artist residencies and stay connected to the activity of teaching.
In the past two years, I have had a few opportunities to be a visiting artist at a school and I really enjoyed teaching in that manner.
I am currently trying to find more balance between my roles as art professional and art educator. Presently, I am looking for a teaching position or perhaps finding more visiting artist opportunities in Chicago and the suburbs. I believe that helping others find their own voice in turn has only strengthened my own. I believe in the philosophy of it is in giving that we receive.
Sherri: How did you decide that being an independent artist would be your career, and not simply your pastime?
Veronica: I’ve always known I was an artist. I have never considered it a pastime. It is who I am and how I communicate and it gives me great joy. I can remember calling myself an artist since the first grade, and I’ve been pursuing a career as an artist since high school.
Sherri: Are you solely a sculptor, or do you work in other media as well?
Veronica: I don't think it is necessary for artists today to define themselves as either a painter, sculptor, photographer, or whatnot, especially when the majority of contemporary artists work across multiple disciplines. I know that people like those labels because they make it easier but they aren’t accurate labels, at least they are not for me, and many artists whose work I admire. I started with painting as my primary means for communication as a child and through undergraduate school but I have expanded, and will continue to expand to any and all media that I am excited by and see potential in.
Sherri: Where do you find inspiration?
Veronica: In the everyday. In my relationships. In my physical, mental and emotional states and how I shift between them. I am constantly observing, filtering, deciphering, storing ideas, images, feelings, and planning ways to put my spin onto these experiences to create something new. I observe, filter and generate something in my own vision. I hope that viewers can relate to something they see or hear and also find inspiration and excitement in the things I make.
Sherri: Many people casually embrace art as a break from the everyday routine. but art IS your everyday routine. So what do you do as a hobby or escape?
Veronica: I am really into yoga. I both practice and teach a Baptiste-style Vinyasa yoga. Walking clears my head. I’m trying to start running more but it’s more of a jog/walk at the moment and just getting the fresh air. I love coffee shops. Finding new music also is amusing. I’m really into the TV show, Homeland and the mind-numbing show Big Bang Theory. However I’ve mentioned before, I still find ways to use these experiences in my work.