Today we’re joined by Shona Fitz-Gerald Laing. Shona is an amazingly talented mixed media sculptor who specializes in metal. She dabbles in a number of other artistic fields, but sculpture is where her heart lies. There’s a truly amazing amount of detail and texture in her work, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m largely a mixed media sculpture artist with a focus on metal. Throughout my work I use crystal imagery as a way to discuss the anxiety of the relationship between the organic and the inorganic, and how that anxiety lends itself to a narrative of personal experiences of being caught “in-between”.
On the side I sketch, paint, and write novels and poetry that are often included in my installations through titles and accompanying works.
What inspires you?
I’ve based my recent work around the term tenalach, which is loosely used to describe ones relationship with the earth. I draw my inspiration from hiking in the Rocky Mountains, local flora and fauna, gemstones (particularly quartz), and local landscapes. I like things that don’t fit into strict categories.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My parents were interested in giving me a well-rounded education, so art lessons were always a thing for me when I was a kid. For the longest time I thought I would be a doctor, so I didn’t decide I “wanted to be an artist” until later in high school.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
I create monochromatic work as a way to subvert the understanding in art that white, whiteness, and minimalism are the purest form of artistic creation (it stems from modernism, the emergence of the “white cube gallery”, and theoretical writings such as “Ornament and Crime” by Adolf Loos – it’s SUPER problematic let me tell you). I use whiteness – traditionally coded as masculine – to explore the complexity of colour and texture, which are traditionally coded feminine.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Try everything. The artist I was in high school isn’t the artist I was in undergrad, and the artist I was in undergrad isn’t the artist I am now. Allow yourself to be flexible and brave, you don’t know you what you’re capable of making if you don’t experiment regularly.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Frequently, more so as a grad student than a professional artist. Because grad students are playing out a specific life path that traditionally includes having a partner, there are definitely expectations from colleagues and faculty to be settling down with someone. Most of my peers are in long term relationships, and it’s just not something I have any interest in. As an artist, the conversation usually comes up around the overt link between sexuality and art-making that is frequently sited in art discourse. Because my art doesn’t directly reference my sexuality, I can usually bypass most arguments with pointed rhetorical questions or my favourite phrase “that’s a nice opinion you got there”.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That life is incomplete without a sexual partner/that sex is an integral and irreplaceable part of human experience. It’s a personal favourite. My friend, if all you need is a sexual partner, you’re the one who’s missing out.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Being able to defend yourself (and your sexuality) takes a lot of courage and time. It’s not easy telling people you love that they’re wrong, and it takes a lot of work to be able to learn and speak about sexualities in a coherent and sensible way. I know it’s frustrating, but it’ll happen. I promise that there will come a time when you’ll be able to turn to your friend/family member/stranger and ashamedly tell them they’re being problematic.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Tumblr: slaing-art.tumblr.com (infrequently updated)
Instagram: shona.f.laing (updated often but mostly pictures of my hikes, studio progress and cat)
Thank you, Shona, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.