Friday, May 7, 2010

Career Paths: Mary Ann Strandell

Mary Ann Strandell layers history and kitsch, texture and simulated surfaces, symbols and enigmas in her paintings and prints, which are on exhibition at JRB Art at the Elms in Oklahoma City beginning today.  Themes of her career path include mindfully maintained networks with curators, collectors, and other artists and a determined pursuit for experiences with wide-ranging original artwork.  Strandell’s drive and her peripatetic way of life interconnect with her work.

This is the third in a series of profiles of accomplished artists in preparation for OVAC’s “Career Paths” workshop on May 22.  Especially, I am focusing on turning points in their careers and some practical steps they have taken along the path.  

Growing up in the small town of Watertown, South Dakota, Strandell always had a desire to see original art and travel, although her area did not have an established fine art culture.\

Queried about how her horizon was so broad despite the relative isolation of her community, she emphasized travel and knowledge of the outside.  Her recent family history of internationality includes her father’s service for World War II and ancestors’ recent immigration from Europe. She also cites her three aunts who became professionals on the coasts and other family who were international diplomats as key in opening her aspirations beyond her immediate locale.  She said she began to see art as a “vehicle” or “portal.”

Strandell finds reading about and seeing outside work as pivotal to her own artwork and career.  She participated in several artist residencies that helped establish her relationships to international artists and new communities.

Now based in New York, Strandell was selected for the highly-competitive Art Omi International Residency in 2008. The program is held in the Hudson River Valley in New York and invites 30 artists from around the world to participate, only 8 of which were from the US when Strandell took part.  Participants receive lodging, working space and meals. 

Even more importantly, many curators and critics visit throughout the three-week period.  Strandell had 32 studio visits, including professionals like Brian Sholis from Artforum and Shamim Momin the 2008 Whitney Biennial Curator.  She now keeps up with her fellow residency artist and new contacts on Facebook.

Strandell also connects with other artists through active involvement in national conferences where she builds her technical skills and networks. 

She emphasized intentionally reaching out to find support for her work when she lived in the middle of the country, teaching in South Dakota, Kansas City, and St. Louis.  She actively sought regional connections. For instance when working in South Dakota, she showed and built a strong collector base in Minneapolis

Not coincidently, Strandell’s current exhibition is guest curated by Shannon Fitzgerald, who she met while teaching at Washington University St. Louis when Fitzgerald was Chief Curator at The Contemporary Museum in St. Louis.  The exhibition, Indexes of Mediated Space, at JRB Art at the Elms  in Oklahoma City opens May 7 and is on exhibit through May 31.  

OVAC invites you to the Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Career Paths”on May 22, led by Mercer and me, Julia Kirt. The day will focus on artistic career stages, personal assessment, and practical job options.

Pink Camp, 3D Lenticular Print, 18"x18"
Two Hearts, Painting, 20"x20"
The Regis, Painting, 48"x48"

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