Working (successfully) in mixed media: Arts alumna isn’t defined by a single form of expression
By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)
Multitalented artist and writer Christine Stoddard (B.A.’12/A; B.A.’12/H&S; Cert.’12/B) will be taking over our Instagram account this Monday.
We’ll be following along as she completes projects as artist-in-residence at New York’s Brooklyn Public Library and Lenox Hill Neighborhood House.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Yes, though I wasn’t always willing to admit it. Middle-class America discourages artists in many ways. We’re told it’s not a practical career path or that we will starve and never be able to earn a living. Once I realized I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else, I promised myself to work hard and seek out opportunities.
Rejection is normal. Failure is normal. Once you accept that those are a given, you do your research, plan and go for it. Break down your goals into smaller, obtainable goals and then work to achieve them one at a time. It is possible to make a living as an artist. No matter what, I will continue to pursue my unique vision.
What made you choose VCU, and how has the university tied into your career path?
I transferred to VCU from a small, private liberal arts college where I felt the only acceptable path was that of a scholar. VCU excited me because I knew that I would create my own interdisciplinary course of study, study with published writers and exhibiting artists and earn professional experience while still in school.
Thanks to VCU, I was able to earn a B.A. in Film from VCUArts, a B.A. in English from the College of Humanities and Sciences and a certificate from the da Vinci Center. I also minored in Spanish, French and European studies.
I studied abroad, earned grants, completed a writer’s residency, had internships, published writing and illustrations, worked on film and TV sets and more. VCU allowed me to merge my interests and make my own creative and intellectual connections. [The university] also helped me network in Richmond and beyond. I will always be grateful to VCU for helping me launch my career.
What prompted you to start Quail Bell Magazine?
I think it’s important for an artist to have both solitary and collaborative pursuits. Quail Bell Magazine is a place for community. I started it while at VCU because I wanted like-minded folks to share their work, see others’ work, talk about it and create things together. I’m constantly inspired by the creative projects that have come out of it.
In addition to being an artist, you’re also a writer and teacher. What about those fields caught your interest?
I see my roles as artist and writer as inseparable. I’ve always been a storyteller and have written stories, poetry, essays and plays. I constantly think about the interplay between words and images, and often create visuals for my writing. My most recent book, “Water for the Cactus Woman,” features both words and images, and I wrote and illustrated the cover for my newest poetry chapbook, “The Tale of the Clam Ear.”
Then there’s teaching. I have two younger sisters so you could say I took an interest in teaching them from a young age. We’d often work on our homework together growing up and I even ran a make-believe “school” for them when we were little. I didn’t consider teaching until a friend told me about AmeriCorps, and I applied and joined the VCU chapter during my last year in school. It was one of the most challenging and important experiences of my life. Now I take on contracts or assignments as a teaching artist in between completing fellowships or residencies.
Last summer I was the artist-in-residence at Annmarie Sculpture Garden, a Smithsonian affiliate in Maryland, where I designed, led and created a public art project involving 11 sculptures made out of recycled materials. Every day I gave demonstrations and encouraged the public to take part in one of the steps necessary for making the sculptures. My ability to show people what I was doing and why, then supervise them was made much easier because of my teaching experience. This summer I’m completing a similar project as artist-in-residence at the Brooklyn Public Library.
I also make films and videos, which requires me to play both writer and visual artist. My poetry film, “A Call to the Stronger Sex,” was presented at the Queens Museum last year and I had a solo exhibition of videos at FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn this year, among multiple smaller screenings in New York City before and since I’ve moved here. There’s a reason it’s called the “seventh art.” [Film] is where all art forms come together.
What inspires your work?
I think and dream a lot, and creating allows me to express my emotions and imaginations. Sometimes these expressions are cryptic and deeply personal, and other times they are more universal and literal. I create to extend my subconscious and share it with the world.
I hope that what I share will resonate with others and encourage them to reflect, ask new questions and seek solutions.