My name is Colleen and I am 23 years old. I am about to graduate with a BFA in Printmaking and minor in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University. An early interest in music and performance led to my life-long love of art-making. While painting and collage are central to my practice, printmaking is my main creative driving force. I am constantly inspired by color, light, and experience, with some of my main inspirations being Josef Albers, Agnes Martin, Olafur Eliasson, and Dan Flavin. Much like these artists, I aim to provoke an instinctual response to color. While my works are deeply personal responses to experiences within my own life, I wish for my abstractions to bring about emotional reactions from each viewer's reality that allows for a multiplicity of interpretation based upon a simple, common form or color. I hope to continue my practice after undergrad through residencies and graduate school in order to maintain my investigation of the personal, the man-made, and the universal.
My work largely centers around process, decision making, rules, and form. I use the manmade structure of time to drive my own man-made structures by searching for the point in which my art becomes validated through my effort and work. Printmaking allows for a structure of process that formally embeds a piece within the framework of possession; of a specific knowledge and of a specific technique that is necessary to learn in order to bring a creative pursuit into legitimate existence. An emphasis on grid-based abstractions is used to think about the minute imperfections that all man-made structures innately have. By working within the form of the grid, I aim to elucidate upon the futility of its intended perfection while finding freedom within its boundaries.
interview with Colleen Kinslow
by Olivia LaRosa
How did you get into art as a child?
I’ve always been artistically inclined I guess as most artists are. I mean, I drew and stuff, but originally I played the drums. I started playing the drums when I was in fourth grade, and I got really into Led Zeppelin. I think that got me very into the arts and performing. My sister did theater all throughout high school, and she made me do theater too, but I did the sets. I was in one play, The Sound of Music, I was the little one… Greta. I loved [performing in productions], but I knew once was enough, so I got really into the sets and doing props and lighting. I dabbled in all of that, and I ended up landing on art.
My school was very sporty, so me and two other kids started an advanced art class because there was only one art class at the time. We would just make our own assignments and draw. I thought ‘I guess I’m pretty good at this, so I guess I’ll go to college [for art].’ I went to a university because I was too freaked to go to an art school- that’s a lot of commitment. Once I got here, I think my biggest influence, if I’m being honest, was Painting I with Richard Raiselis who is a professor here. He also teaches Color Theory. He’s just like a classic, plein-air painter; he’s romantic in his views about painting and seeing. He’s really influenced by Josef Albers, and so I think both of those people stuck with me. [Raiselis in part] because he was very sensitive about color and form, and I think the first piece of art that moved me in college was in his show when I was a freshman at NAGA gallery down on Newbury Street. That show really moved me, so after that I became really interested in color and landscape. Specific influences there were Fairfield Porter, Gwen John, and Morandi. That was the beginning.
Later I got into abstraction. Going off the Josef Albers thing, his wife Anni Albers is like my historical soulmate. She made these incredible weavings which you can see now at the Harvard Art Museums, and so she went to the Bauhaus, wasn’t admitted into the painting department because she was a woman, and did weavings instead. She did these incredible paintings made out of yarn, and they’re so beautiful. Not just because they’re impeccably made, but because of the time that she put into it. When you make a painting, it’s pretty straight-forward, right? Unless you’re layering or glazing or something like that. The process of weaving and the time it takes to make something like that attracted me to her and to weaving as well. Her and Agnes Martin, right now, are like my grandparents- my art historical grandparents!
Ok so some questions about drums. a) do you still play drums?
Yes I fiddle when I can. I don’t have a kit here, and CFA keeps them locked up [for music majors]. When I go back home, I’ll set them up, and I’ll jam sometimes. My dearest boyfriend, Zach, is learning how to play the guitar, so he’s like “yeah let’s jam, Col, let’s be a band!”
Do you have a favorite drummer?
My gut is telling me Neil Peart from Rush… but my heart is telling me Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney. [Peart] is my true seventh grader choice.
Which artists were some of your favorites when you were a kid?
I think everyone’s first foray into art that they like is the Impressionists or the Post-Impressionists, so Van Gogh was definitely the first person I can remember being curious about. I read a biography of Van Gogh when I was younger, and I remember that being a really heartbreaking thing because as a kid my favorite color was yellow- it still is. Everything I got was yellow: my Barbie VW bug, my Gameboy was yellow, everything. I remember reading that Van Gogh tried to eat yellow paint because he thought it would make him happier, and that just hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember, then, looking at paintings of his all the time and going to the Met with my parents- I’m from New Jersey- and seeing his painting of the shoes. That was very moving to me as a young person. I didn’t have art around me as a kid, so it was up to me to [seek it out]. I felt like that painting, and that time, and yellow really stuck with me.
What are your thematic influences? In other words, what images and ideas Do you return to over and over again?
Ideas that I keep coming back to are process and intuition. I feel like I have a lot of intuitive moments, and maybe that’s because I’m a sensitive person, and most artists are sensitive people. There’s a gut feeling that usually leads me in a certain direction. These ideas sound really simple, but truly, making a decision and then moving forward from that is difficult. In printmaking, you have to stick with the move you make. I also think color is huge in conveying a story. I guess that’s how I tell my stories: through color.
So these ideas, how do they manifest in your art?
Mainly through grids. A lot of organization and a sequential look where you can tell which step was what. Or maybe you’re confused and you can’t tell which step was what. Another thing is that I’ll use a grid, but go decisively against perfection.
What were you like as a child? What were your favorite things to do?
Well I didn’t play sports, so no to sports. I spent a lot of time alone. I have some vivid memories of playing in leaves and being really into leaves. I have great memories sitting on blankets and reading and- oh and this is a really happy one- my mom set me up a chair and a folding table- like a TV dinner table- in front of the TV- not too close, of course because that would sound really, you know. She gave me something, it must have been, I don’t know, like crayons or a snack and put Aladdin on for me.
At this point I had to stop the interview because I had watched Aladdin the night before, and we had to discuss the movie for several minutes.
When I was older, painting pottery was a big one. I did a lot of that! My mom would take me to this local place called “Time to Kiln.” I totally had supportive parents. My dad plays every musical instrument under the sun for fun. My mom is just like this loving force, and my sister of course did theater in high school, but now does stand-up in Philly. So they’re not exactly arty art people but definitely very supportive.
What do you think you want to do after graduation?
Well I love teaching, I’ve taught a few classes- a lot of them bookmaking, I’ve been a TA for that class a few times. I’ve been a student teacher at Norfolk Men’s Prison. It was actually a music class, and they would have art days, so my friend Leila and I would go in and do art lessons. That was a super complicated experience. I also did a bookmaking summer class for continuing education. All of the students were actual teachers and during their summers they were getting their masters here at BU. It was an amazing class! I love teaching, and being in the studio when someone comes up to me and says, “oops, something went wrong, can you help me”, and I’m always like, “Yeah, let’s figure it out!” A lot of the time it’s like the pressure was too light, or the ink was too oily, you didn’t etch that for long enough- stuff I’ve learned through experience can then impart onto other people. I love the exchange of helping someone make something that they’re proud of. I would love to be teaching at the college level. I don’t think I could do kindergarten. Something would go wrong.
What would you be studying or working towards?
I originally wanted to go to college for architecture, actually. I have a certain fascination with buildings and the regularity, light, and them as entities as opposed to objects. They’re very being-esque to me. I also love drawing buildings so much!
I might also be studying art history. I love academia, I think. I really like the university as a place where new things happen. People just kind of meld. It takes a special person to reap all the benefits out of the university which is sort of like a petri dish.
As of late, what has your work been focusing on?
A lot of the time, [what I’m working on] is directly tied to the mental state that I’m in at the time. Being a very sensitive person [I’ve had] anxiety and certain mental habits that have been very prominent in my life. The strength of that is correlated to the process and having that kind of expressive and direct outcome is relaxing. Art is very frustrating, but it’s also very peaceful for an anxious mind because you’re doing, and you’re making.
Colleen and I seemed to have a shared appreciation for Inside the Actors Studio, and so as James Lipton does at the end of each of his interviews, I asked her questions from the “Pivot Questionnaire”- a series of questions compiled by journalist Bernard Pivot for his Bouillon de Culture talk show.
Olivia: What is your favorite word?
Colleen: So first of all, this is my dream scenario, so thank you. The first thing that came to my mind was “scintillating”.
Olivia: What is your least favorite word?
Colleen: “Like” for many reasons. When I’m in class, and someone answers a question or makes a comment, I count how many times they say “like”. Oh I sound like such an asshole. It is such a crutch like “uh” or “um”, but it’s a real word, not just a sound.
Olivia: What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Colleen: I really like flying. I really like looking at something far away. Sunset or sunrise on a building. Not even looking at a sunset itself, but looking at what a sunset does to everything in the world. I love having that, kind of, scale back. Looking at something grand. Zooming out. Emotionally, I love making someone laugh. Not everyone will have the same sense of humor, but if you can figure it out, and get that real laugh out of them… It’s so great.
Olivia: What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
Colleen: Complacency. I also can’t get down with people who don’t get excited about things.
Olivia: What is your favorite curse word?
Colleen: Um. Shit. I use shit a lot. I think “damn” is my favorite, “shit” I use a lot.
Olivia: What sound or noise do you love?
Colleen: Cicadas in the summertime.
Olivia: What sound or noise do you hate?
Colleen: I hate hearing the footsteps of my upstairs neighbors. They suck! I’ve had so many experiences with that.
Olivia: I guess we kind of did this, but what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Olivia: What profession would you not like to do?
Colleen: Doctor. I’m mush. I would just be like “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry” all the time.
Olivia: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Colleen: That thing that Robin Williams says in Good Will Hunting, where he just keeps saying, “it’s not your fault.” Something like that like, “you tried your best.” See, if this were my dad, he’d come up with something really funny. My sister too. Goddamnit.