I am really impressed with Annie Vought’s work; it creates a very attractive third dimension: the text, the wall and the effect of light over both…..
How did everything begin? How did you see yourself doing this type of art?
I love paper because it is so delicate. It speaks to me of impermanence. We have been using paper as a vehicle for communication, in one way or another, for centuries. I made paintings in the past but I never found my voice as a painter. Whenever I would get stuck in my creative process I would make collages to loosen myself up. Around that time I was working for a documentary filmmaker. Inspired by his films I started to explore different ways of telling stories in my own artwork. The combination of collages and personal storytelling opened me up to start making the kind of work I make today..
You create Art with words, what do the words signify in your work and life?
My re-creation of letters and words is an extended investigation on peoples’ inner lives and the way they express their thoughts through writing. A letter is a physical confirmation of whom we are and how we feel at the moment it is written, and is sometimes all we have left of a person or a certain time period.
What is the process for each piece? What do you start by doing?
I start out with a drawing or with meticulously recreated notes and letters that I have found, written, or received. I then enlarge the documents onto a new piece of paper and intricately dissect the negative spaces with an x-acto knife. The handwriting and the lines support the structure of the cut paper, keeping it strong and sculptural, despite its apparent fragility. I use around 100 x-acto blades a day.
Do you use real texts?
When I use letters as the base of my work, they are always copies of real letters. I have a huge collection of mail – my own letters that I have kept throughout my life as well as those of unknown others. I have hundreds of postcards collected from garage sales, flea markets, and EBay. I have letters from a salesman writing home to his family as he drives around the US selling seeds. I have a packet of over 20 love letters from a soldier named Bernard to his “darling wife” during WW2 and a stack of letters to “Mom and Dad Holt” sent from Sergeant Bill in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Reading over all of the letters, including the ones written to me is haunting. It is like reviewing the leftovers of people, including myself. Collectively the letters remind me of mistakes, longing, love and loss. To me the letters are both positive and negative memorials. I copy the handwriting, and the spelling.
It is a work which requires a lot of patience, how do you get it done?
I am a restless person, and in every other area of my life I am not a particularly patient person. That said I love the slow process of my paper cuts. I listen to audio books and drink coffee as my dog lays at my feet while I work. It is wonderfully relaxing.
In your work, you create a “spatial” drawing, are you more concerned with the text or the 3D quality of it?
Both. I love the appearance of words, and language. In the penmanship, word choice, and spelling the author is often revealed in spite of him/herself. I am very interested in the hand, and mark making. Handwriting and letters are one aspect of that, drawing and doodles are another. The stories and concept are also deeply important to me even though the pieces themselves can be very hard to read. I think of these pieces as sculptures. I hang each piece on the tip of pins so that they appear to float 3 inches away from the wall. This allows for a shadow to cast down the back of the wall. Without the 3 dimensional aspect, my work loses its light and delicate nature.
With each piece being unique, do you mark them in any way?
Each piece I make is unique. I do not mark them in anyway. I have records and photographs of each piece but nothing beyond that. Maybe I should start.
What about money? Do you always succeed in making it work or is it something that is not so important to you right now?
I would really like to be able to charge more for my work right now. I do sell most of my art, but for the amount of time it takes me to produce a piece, I do not make nearly enough money. I am slowly raising my prices. I have been told that I need to get an assistant to help me make the pieces so that I can produce more work, but I am not interested in doing that. It is very difficult to make money as an artist. I don’t like to worry about it too much because it can affect my artwork in a negative way.
Which would be your ideal project?
I would love to be given the freedom to do anything I want in a big room of a Gallery or museum in Paris, London, New York, or Berlin. Ideally I would have a year to plan and work for this show. That sounds FUN.
What is the most difficult thing in your work?
I have a lot of self-doubt. I am my biggest obstacle – I don’t think I am smart enough or good enough…blah, blah… So whenever I get rejected from something (which is often) it is confirmation of all my personal insecurities. Sometimes I feel like my work isn’t conceptual enough, but my hope is that the source material and the visual aesthetics draw people in enough to take time with the work and discover that there’s complexity and meaning that might not be as readily present. I do my very best to ignore the negative voices inside my head. Otherwise I’ll give up. I try and remind myself that there are so many different art worlds, and art touches everyone in such different ways. It’s such a challenge; one I know I am not alone in experiencing. The other thing is that there’s really no map that guides artists on how to navigate through the many art worlds. We just sort of have to wing it and follow people we admire. Art school taught me nothing about how to be a working artist.
Which one has been your biggest success?
I am not sure I have had one big success. I have been doing fairly well showing and selling my art for the past few years. I have gotten some very nice reviews in different publications, I have had some shows I am proud of. I was accepted into a prestigious residency (after being rejected from many) combining all of this together feels like a success. I have not reached many of my goals and that can be discouraging. But I am going to keep making art for as long as I can, so hopefully I will have a lot more time to reach those goals.
What is next now? Other projects in mind?
I have an artist collaboration with Hannah Ireland entitled Double Zero. We have an interdisciplinary collaboration that builds on our friendship of over twenty years and investigates how identity is shaped in relation to those closest to us, the boundaries and connections between individuals, and different modes of taking up space in the world. We primarily make sculptures and videos. It is vastly different from my own cut paper work, but I find it so liberating and fun. We just returned from a 2 month residency at the Montalvo Center For The Arts. Our work is getting some traction, and we are starting to be very busy. I am very excited about the work we are doing together. You can see some of our videos here.
What is beauty for you?
Open landscapes where you can see for hundreds of miles, oceans, the Crazy Mountains in Montana, the desert horizon in New Mexico, lightning storms, The Lightning Fields in New Mexico, Paul Klee’s drawings, Josef Albers’ color theory prints, Enrique Martínez Celaya’s project entitled The Pearl, The sound of wind, Beethoven, Bob Dylan, My dog Moses, my husband Scott. Eating sandwiches on a hike, drinking wine in Italy, eating almost anything in Italy, the landscapes in Italy, photographs of the earth, photographs of the moon, forgiveness, and other beautiful things that sound corny when I talk about them.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become an artist professionally??
Take chances in your art and have fun
Don’t worry about what other people think of you
Have a good network of peers
Use social networks to your advantage
Find a mentor that you trust
Apply to grants/residencies/public projects
Reach out to people you admire
Don’t worry about being “well rounded”