Christine Buckton Tillman, a Baltimore-based artist, participates in the Artists Interview Artists Project. Below Christine responds to another artist's five questions (Carol Es from LA). In order to participate, Christine had to provide me with five questions for some other artist to answer. The assigning of questions to artists is completely random. If you're an artist and interested in participating, let me know.
1. Is there a separation between your "normal" life and your work. if so, how do you manage to keep each in its place?
Yes and no, my sister-in-law once joked about women being natural multi-taskers, that hits home for me. My "normal" life is mostly work and home, with a few great understanding artist friends thrown in for good measure. I work full time as the Exhibitions Educator and a member of the Upper School Faculty in a k-12 progressive school in Baltimore, so I'm not physically in my studio as much as I would if I had a trust fund. But I feel like my head makes little visits to the studio all the time, I get a lot done while driving, see something in the third graders made, or sketch out something out in a faculty meeting. I also spend a lot of my down time researching things on craft weblogs.
The home-life aspect is even more of a blurry line for me. My studio is on the top floor of my house, so my nesting and collecting habits drift upstairs. My husband and I bought our first house in Baltimore about a year and a half ago; I've started seeing how much my work has changed since being there. We have an unusually large yard for the city, and in the warmer months I spend a lot of time just trying to tame the natural beast that is my garden, not surprisingly as my house gets filled with bulb catalogs, I see the same imagery in my work. I feel like I respond a lot to the things in the front of my mind.
2. Do you predetermine meaning in your work? and/or, after you complete a piece of art, do you feel the meaning needs justification/explanation?
I feel like I'm constantly having this dialog with all sorts of ideas and materials in my studio; nature, real/fake, craft, high-art/low-art, image/object, man-made/hand-made, beauty, pattern, cute, fun, festive, romantic, abstraction, transcendence, touch, scale, color, humor, love, the world, simplicity, over the top, knick-knacks, felt, plastic, I think that question implies that things always have a specific meaning. I'm not entirely comfortable with that, I think I'm having an evolving conversation with all these ideas.
3. What would you say is the ratio of pivotal pieces to the work that you do? (ex: 1 out of every 10 pieces?) "pivotal" meaning a piece that opened a door for you, changed your direction, or was a major result of a prior evolution.
At this point I make most work site specifically or for something, I see a lot of change and evolution, but many things are large enough that I'm lucky if I can make 5 big things a year. Most of the "pivotal" came from graduate school, although they were more things that took me to the place I'm at now, not things that are immediately visible in the work currently. Of course my first projections at the end of graduate school were a big deal in my mind, that's still around in a big way. I feel like everything opens a door for something, I'm constantly learning, changing. I've been working with felt since 2000, but for the exception a set of fake trees that now live with my friend Nate in Sonoma, it never went where I wanted it to go. The tree skirts I began making last summer feel a little more comfortable for me because the form more directly references the material. I'm really excited about working with flashlights too, I think that can go further than it did at the BMA.
4. Did you go to art school, and if so, are you satisfied with the experience vs. teaching yourself or being classically trained? (vise versa for those that did not attend art school.)
Art School? I didn't ever go to "art school art school". However I am a certified Master of Fine Art. I majored in art at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and had this amazing experience running around and causing all kinds of productive art trouble in Iowa's most famous to crossword puzzle enthusiast's liberal arts college, and discovering my true passion for thrift stores. I'm a huge advocate for the liberal arts track, I had Art friends and Sociology friends, it was fantastic and diverse.
I went to the University of Iowa to get my MFA in (ironically) painting, and the experience was much more art school, in that besides the lone poet, film, or media studies pal, I was around other artists all the time. When I first got to Iowa City there was a bit of a performance bug sweeping around the Print department, it was amazing and kind of surreal, within the first 6 month I "fished cows from the Iowa River" and was a Valkyrie in the Pre-Ragnarok flag football scrimmage, I organized some sort of art department entry to the Homecoming parade as well. It felt kind of art school, but who are you kidding when you're in Iowa really...
I'm totally satisfied with the experience. Iowa was perfect. It was one of those big state school situations where a lot of the faculty were really focused on their own work so it ended up being all about your peer group rather than what the faculty said. It was fantastic, now if only someone would forgive my loans...
5. How do you define success in terms of what you are working towards? (what is the ideal scenario for you in 10 years time?)
I don't think it's that simple for me. It's not like it's as easy as I want to be the artstar, or be in the next 3 biennials. I've had a lot of great opportunities in the past few years and I hope they just keep coming, I'd like to continue to work larger, and perhaps work on some projects where I'm able to have a bigger budget, make some editions, that kind of thing. I'd like to sell more work clearly, but it's certainly not the thing that's driving what I make, but if it happened that would be nice. I just want to make more stuff.
Juno Doran (questions by James W. Bailey)
Josh Feldman (questions by Joseph Barbaccia)
Lisa Stephenson (questions by Whitney Lynn)
Joseph Barbaccia (questions by Josh Feldman)
James W. Bailey (questions by Matt Hollis)
Matt Hollis (questions by Juno Doran)
Carol Es (questions by James Leonard)
Alexandra Silverthorne (questions by Ami Lahoff)