We are so pleased to welcome Petersburg artist, Aimee Joyaux back to Quirk after her simultaneous Shop Show and Vault exhibits last fall. Her current Vault show features six new large scale drawings in oil pastel, acrylic paint and pencil on paper. Aimee has established herself as a prolific and popular artist working in a variety of mediums and disciplines and serves as an instructor at Richard Bland College. She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for us and told us about her journey from a student criss-crossing the country to a passionate artist who is deeply influenced and inspired by the world around her.
Quirk: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you start your career as an artist? How did you and your husband, Alain end up making your home in Petersburg?
Aimee Joyaux: I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, lived in Michigan for a few years but spend my “formative years” in Hawaii (grades 3-12). I was very fortunate to get a scholarship to a good high school because a great teacher recognized that I was heading in the wrong direction. This school was focused on college prep but in my last semester, I took a painting class and it just changed everything for me. I felt at home in art in a way I didn’t feel anywhere else. So I made up my mind to be an art major in college and never looked back. I went to college in Oregon and discovered skiing, mountaineering, river rafting, mountain biking, and generally screwing off in nature to my great joy. I learned to teach skiing and did that for 15 years in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Argentina. I also worked as a fire fighter for the Forest Service in a couple of the off seasons. That was all very exciting and beautiful but I missed art and the serious meandering conversations that it inspires. So, I went back to school and got an MFA in Visual Communications (aka Photography) from the University of Oregon. I chose photography, in large part, because I thought it was a marketable skill but I always wanted to return to teaching. I got a teaching job right out of grad school at Ball State University in Indiana, which is where I met my husband – who was then the Director of the Art Museum. I persuaded him to jump ship and find a big warehouse in a warmer climate where we could work in a more entrepreneurial fashion. We found Petersburg on the internet and there was a SPE Conference in Richmond, so we came out and looked around and fell in love with the town. We owned our building for a year before we moved here and were able to gather a lot of building materials in advance and designed the space around what we had. I have two incredible studios which are supporting some great experimentation and a lot of fun.
Q: We’ve been lucky enough to exhibit a lot of your work at Quirk over the years; sculpture, drawings, paintings—you work in a lot of different mediums and disciplines. Is there one that you prefer? What is it that inspires the work you create and how does the content of your work develop?
AJ: If I had to pick one medium, I would pick drawing. It’s the most immediate for me, it’s flexible, it can be done cheaply, and I just love it. I find inspiration everywhere. I am inspired by the world around me — current events, politics, education, business. I’m inspired by the great themes of art — passion, fear, love, hate, jealousy, gratitude, beauty, redemption. I’m inspired by the history of art as a story of humanity and politics and money and materials and ideas. I love art materials. I’m inspired by executing on the elements and principles of design to create something from something else — to use color and shape and form in a way that elicits a response, a feeling, a thought. I want to connect to humanity through art. I want to be part of that conversation.
Q: Your work always has such a powerful energy to it and the drawings you’re exhibiting in The Vault this month are certainly no exception. Is there something that you hope viewers will recognize or take away from the experience of viewing your pieces?
AJ: I hope there is beauty in my work. I hope people see something that gets them to look more closely. Art can suspend us, it can alter our tempo and can be such a lovely reprieve . I would hope to lull the viewer into this reverie with color and form and draw them into further with lines or text. But, I’m also trying to bring a lot of energy into these drawings. Sometimes I do panic, even if only symbolically because I am afraid of things I don’t understand or trust or can’t fix like mortgage derivatives, the age of the universe, black holes, plate tectonics, and mono culture. The work at Quirk is inspired in part by immigration reform, gang culture, comets, and orphans….. Too much news cycle, but at least art gives me a way to explore and express these concerns and perhaps find a larger audience – it all goes back to connection.
Q: We know you have a Photo Show coming up in April at Studio 23. Are there any other projects you’re working on?
AJ: I’m always kind of working, but I am looking forward to the spring. With warmer weather I can get into my print shop (Cornmeal Press) and I’m ready to make some nice big posters with my salvaged farm animal plates. Expect to see some “Grown Close to Home” posters out and about. Let me know if you’re growing something close to home — maybe we can make a poster? Free range creativity . . . I barter.
Q: You’ve had so many unique experiences living in different parts of the country. Are there things about our area, Richmond and Petersburg specifically, that you find artistically inspiring?
AJ: I was immediately drawn to the early architecture and the remnants of buildings on the sides of other buildings, like a patchwork quilt, the rooftops are all skewed and crooked. Matches the Appalachia music perfectly. The southern folklore is very interesting to me — poems and slang , crafts culture, I feel that somehow in my bones. Richmond is a thriving, energized city in part because it is filled with contradiction. So many factions and they all have a voice somehow; not an equal voice but there is a lot of talking, a lot of expression, lots of noise. The South is kind of noisy, maybe not compared to NYC, but compared to the Midwest. People there are pretty restrained. I like the chatter around here. And, I’ve met so many amazing people, my heart got bigger in Richmond. I love living in Petersburg. It has such a powerful history. I have great friends, a National Park, a river, and a big building – all of which I find very inspiring.
Q: When you aren’t working, what are your favorite things to do? Where are your favorite places to go?
AJ: I love to read well written fiction, blogs, tumblr (it’s the new reading…), I love to walk my dog (preferably in our very own National Park), I enjoy kayaking and an activity we like to call “porching”. I love to travel and I love art museums (and natural history museums). And I love to eat but not to cook. How about you?