Kristen Schiele

Ladies Choice is an ongoing series highlighting female artists working in New York City and beyond. This series honors the power and ingenuity of women in the arts. Women have traditionally received much less exposure and recognition in the art industry. In their support of one another, these women stand as a testament to furthering the careers of female artists.

Kristen Schiele creates bold, playful scenes that are multi-layered in their meaning. With her painting, Kristen builds a backdrop to a story derived from collage and inspired by elements in nature and from memories. Her works are as captivating as they are detailed, awakening the senses to a beautiful and fun experience. Kristen lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

You are part of a young generation of female artists hustling and gaining recognition in NYC. What does being a part of a strong female community mean for you?

Women crit groups, friends, artists, art business women help me – we help each other – articulate a woman’s authority. I don’t focus on the limits of gender, but I do find the most meaningful content being made today are currently produced by women or people walking the world in the shoes of the “other.” There is an advantage in having this viewpoint. I do make an effort to push, curate and create space for women. They inspire me.

Which female artists, living or dead, inspire you most?

Going way back, Joan Mitchell, Tamara de Lempicka, Frida Kahlo, Florine Stettheimer, Sonia Delaunay, Scandinavian textile designers / silk screeners and countless crafts women making patterns, quits, tribal costumes, fabrics. I live in research libraries. Today I am inspired by painters on our collective studio floor including Liz Glaessner, Robin Francis Williams, Shara Hughes, Zoe Nelson, Manuela Vieragallo or studios that are close by, Hope Gangloff, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, Inka Essenhigh, Summer Wheat, Letha Wilson.

Have you experienced firsthand the underrepresentation of female artists in the art industry?

I have always worked with inclusive people. Art residencies have been fair and balanced. I’ve been rejected from masculine scenes and galleries, but it wasn’t a fit for me either. I was once in the studio of an amazing women artist who had a show coming up in the Whitney Museum. She said she was not excited and that it took too long to get this kind of recognition. Success doesn’t equal fun or financial stability, even when it comes. When we talk underrepresentation, we tend to talk about the transactional aspect of art. It takes time to change those systems. As artists, we focus on making the best work we can and hope we are speaking in the world clearly, and at the right time for it to listen.

Have you noticed a change in opportunities available for female artists since you first entered the art world?

There are many more galleries available, many more platforms to share work and the now work lives online. The world is more open to all voices.

If you could change one thing about the current landscape for working female artists what would it be?

I think for all women it requires work to change our landscape. Changing politics and changing the narrative ourselves. There are more of us than any bad idea.

In my case, I spent years of my time and put my savings in a large Greenpoint Brooklyn lease. I turned the lease into an artist studio cooperative. This took help from artists who had done it before me (in Berlin and New York,) relatives who know law, a DJ friend who found a space, Kayrock (my partner) who knows how to manage numbers, and contractors that I formed relationships with. In the end I have years left in a stable, inexpensive group of equal share art studios, to continue to make and inspire our work, lectures, events. This was one way I changed my own landscape.

Where do you draw inspiration for your paintings from? Both in the patterns and the imagery.

I have a whole world behind any painting/ installation, and its rather crazy. For years and years, I’ve collected photos from books, magazines, my life, movies, screenshots. I copy them, cut them up, have drawers full of these parts labeled SET, ACTOR, HOUSE, OBJECTS, NATURE. I make collages from the parts, put them in groups and edit until I see a vision of works that all speak together. They are theater sets of a place I imagine I want to be, or somewhere, something that shows a point of view, thought, idea. If I could create an expression of delight, or of a moon shadow, of the earth, while you are in a domestic world…. with objects and patterns… that is what I see.

The patterns are stripped down low-fi, reduced to Atari noise, simple shapes and geometry that serve a decorative or energy or serve the painterly abstraction in the work. It is hard not to reference the specific origins/tribes/traditions/rituals as all shapes and designs have been done and create a point of reference. Pattern is never simple, and it holds the spirit of the people in a time and place. I increasingly reduce the specificity of the pattern unless I intend a reference to Japan/Africa/Navajo, etc.

How has your practice evolved over the years? Were you always interested in patterns?

My practice has always been to collect notebooks and folders of ideas and images, draw and paint from life, and use it all to make abstract/expressive paintings. It always involved pattern. I’m disrupting the picture plane with sculpture or pattern and have moved on to assemblage work to keep bouncing the framing elements in and around depicted elements of the work.

Color is obviously a very important part of your work – can you explain how you go about choosing the various color palettes that appear in your paintings?

I have changed my practice, observing artists I love and how they work, to pre-mixing a large range of colors and starting a palette with a certain color as a main inspiration. The more I glaze and darken the painting, the more light can create. When I was first starting out in painting, I was in Washington DC. I would take a tin pencil box, with a full palette of paint, a few brushes and a few small primed panels and work directly from life in bars and cafes. It’s more difficult to create a sense of light in the studio.

Your work is very fun and playful– is the creation process also fun for you?

I do make my art making practice fun. I use colors that make you feel like you are on a beach on Jamaica. At the same time, there is an almost always a double entendre to the work, a second meaning or several readings. I was once listening to a German politician talking about America as a great seductress, and no one likes to be seduced. I find seduction a core challenge in being a woman in the world. You can, however, use it as an advantage in a painting. Seduction can be a ploy to get you looking until you see there may be sharks in the water.

At the end of every interview, we like to ask the artist to recommend a friend whose work you love for us to interview next. Who would you suggest?

I think Elizabeth Glaessner is an incredible artist at PPOW. She is on our studio floor and doing amazing new work, total original.