The first Stephanie Rond artwork I ever saw was this one:
A Facebook friend had posted the image. I reposted, having never heard of Rond but loving the piece. Total honesty: I did not think she was from Columbus. I had yet to see, in my four or five years of living here, any feminist art by a local. Coming to Columbus by way of the super liberal Kent, Ohio, this fact was something I was keenly aware of. Thus, I just assumed…
Then, by a series of fabulous events–most of which involved getting trash wine wasted, smoking American Spirits and me eating all the fancy cheese she brought for hangtime before she could get any–we became good friends.
Rond’s work has a voice I long to hear. I love a lot of work by artists in town, but her pieces seem made for me. They are challenging but nurturing. They don’t make me feel angry, they make me feel vindicated. They make me remember that abuse–of power, people and/or prerogatives–can be overcome if we stick together and demand better. And they straddle the line between radicalism and understanding that everyone has fucking problems, a quality my favorite outlooks on social struggles share.
Moreover, girl’s innovative. She started curating a couple dollhouse galleries with miniature contemporary art. A dollhouse was always on her list of wants as a little girl, so why not? What has resulted is an exploration of scale, gender, desire, space and collaboration. (Each presenting artist is also in charge of setting up the “house” with tiny decor Rond gives them. It’s really fun to click through and see how each artist accomplished this task.)
Then! By a series of even more fabulous events, I became the proud owner of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
It is special to me that this is the first piece of art I have ever owned (by disposable income restrictions, not choice). It is special to me that it is the first piece of Rond’s that I ever saw. To me, “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” speaks to the struggle to define one’s own femininity (or masculinity, for that matter) and the unique concerns of female artists. Here’s a rough stream of consciousness of what I see when I look at it:
Woman —> Beautiful —> God, it takes a long time to get ready —> I love getting ready —> I love that women are beautiful and it’s socially acceptable to use all the tools at our disposal to get ready/ beautiful —> I also love women who do nothing to get ready and think they are beautiful. —> Do we feel pressured to use those tools? —> I guess we do as girls —> But as a woman, wearing makeup is more for me than for anyone else —> Why do we hate when men wear makeup? —> Ugh. Well. —> Would I like it if my boyfriend wore makeup or corsets? ————-> NO. —-> Remember when emo kids in college wore eyeliner to macroeconomics class? Because one can not properly assess the GDP without Cover Girl. —> I think that was my least attended class of college. In fact, I think it was called microeconomics. I never took macroeconomics. —> Speaking of kids. —> Am I going to have any? ————> Yes. Eventually. —> Look at these kids. Four of them, like me and my siblings. —> Are these these women’s children? Or do they represent her as a child. —> I think they are her children. —> I think she was an artist. Or wants to be an artist. —> Art is literally what she sees when she looks in the mirror. —> It’s a man painting. —> Her daughter is holding the same painting that she sees in the mirror. The boys are the ones actually painting, though. —> Is she passing on her artist dreams to her children because she wants to or because she has to? —> How do you choose your life? —> At what points is life a choice? —> At what point are we responsible for our own happiness/ unhappiness? —> I like the blindfolded boy. He seems like trouble. —> I like boys who are trouble. —> Are the children painting the way they see their mother? —> How did I paint a picture of my mother while outside as a child getting in trouble? —> What dreams of hers do I have inside me? —> Are they really my dreams? —> The boys are so far apart from one another. —> I wish the boys found it easier to confide in one another like these little girls appear to. —> Maybe the mom is still an artist. —> Maybe this is a hopeful painting of everything a woman’s life can represent. —> Everything my life can represent? —> Choices.
In a belated What’s Up Columbus post (she was our July show’s second guest), here are Rond’s 10 answers to 10 questions for an artist.
What kind of art do you make and why?
I make street art, paintings and miniature worlds.
My goal is to create work that serves as a springboard for meaningful political conversation. I want to challenge the boundaries of stereotypes and provoke the questions: What is art? What is the proper space for art?
How do you make your street art?
For my street art I hand cut stencils and use spray paint. For my temporary “street gifts,” I spray on paper and wheat-paste the images onto walls. For permanent pieces I spray directly onto the wall. All my work is sanctioned. I believe in art karma, so I always ask permission.
What are your thoughts on the Columbus art scene? What are it’s advantages and/ or disadvantages?
In the past decade, the DIY arts culture in Columbus has grown and thrived “underground.” Currently, creatives are exploding everywhere in our city and opportunities abound for beginners to the well known.
Within the arts community, we have learned that the best way to succeed is to work collectively in order to lift us all up. It makes me proud to be part of a large artist community that values collaboration and mutual success. The Art and Artists of 614 on Facebook, founded by Walter Herrmann, is a good place for anyone interested in the local visual scene to get a flavor of what the city has to offer.
Columbus is centrally located between Atlanta, New York, Philly, Indiana, Cleveland, Chicago and many other communities with thriving art scenes. All these cities are a one-day drive, which makes showing broadly possible. This central location gives Columbus artists the ability to build a regional presence. The challenge for artists to move to national recognition, however, is that we have to “compete” for attention with the artists who are actually living in the largest cities where “being discovered” on a national level happens.
What do you do while you make art?
I listen to music and audio books. My favorite music genres to listen to are punk rock, riot grrl, heavy metal, alternative rock, hip hop and music my friends give me as gifts. I love listening to both fiction and non-fiction audio books. I also enjoy This American Life on NPR.
What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned from the art that has been shown in your miniature dollhouses?
I’ve been pleasantly (un)surprised how serious the artists take their shows. This reinforces my belief that no matter the scale, art is art. It has also been interesting to hear from the artists how challenging, yet rewarding working on a small scale can be.
What attracts you to street art and what do you think is the biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art?
I’m attracted to street art for several reasons, one because I believe that art should be for all to experience, two it combats advertising and marketing schemes and three it is not a product to be bought or sold.
The biggest hurdle facing women who want to make street art is the same that faces women in most careers; it can be frustrating to play in the “boys club.”
Do you wish to see your art effect feminist change locally? How so?
Of course! I plan to affect change not just locally, but nationally. I want to make visuals that open conversations about the inequalities that are real and exist. When people recognize the reality and discuss it, then change can happen.
How do you balance creating art with all the curatorial work you do?
It’s not easy. Curatorial work is much more than just putting a show together, hanging it and opening the show. It involves lots of meetings with artists and galleries, identifying artists, emails, phone calls, PR, etc. This often cuts into painting, which for my process, often requires days in row of concentration. I’m most successful at it when I schedule that time in advance by blocking my calendar, but the creative process also requires spontaneity and inspiration. I’m still trying to figure out this balance.
Do you have a schedule or system set up that works for you?
I use three things. My phone calendar, a huge chalkboard in my kitchen where I list everything that needs to get done and a small pad of paper on my studio work table so I can empty my head while doing studio work.
What advice would you give to an artist starting out that you’ve found invaluable?
I advise artists to keep working and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Keep striving to refine your technique. Make sure you are critical of yourself and always seek knowledge so you can continue to grow.
Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party.
I would invite contemporaries because I’m interested in their views on current society. The Guerrilla Girls, Henry Rollins and Margaret Atwood. I think Henry can roll with the ladies.