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Relevant Artist JoAnn Poirier studies clay printing at Alfred University in New York. (Photo courtesy of the Kimball Art Center)
The five artists who were selected for the Kimball Art Center's Relevant program took time out of their schedule to answer the same five questions by The Park Record.

Here are their answers.

JoAnn Poirier, clay printing, Alfred University, New York

Why did you want to become an artist?

I loved making things. My mom would always have crafts and things for us to do. I felt a real satisfaction in that. When I was in high school, I started doing ceramics and felt I had a natural affinity and talent for that.

When I got into college, I started looking to find myself in art and how art tells me more about my perception in the world.

With my clay printing, I met an artist named Mitch Lyons and he invited me to take his workshop on clay printing. At first, I thought it was about photo-transferring onto three-dimension clay works, but when I got there, I found it was mono printmaking and clay was the medium you drew with.

How has art enhanced your life experiences?

Art has opened my eyes to parts of people and the world in perceptions you don't really think about. In ceramics, for example, you learn how people work. When you make a mug, you find that men and women hold them differently. It's interesting to pick up on things like that and see what I'm attracted to and what other people are attracted to.

I also like figuring out what the role of the artist has in society. When you look at prehistoric art, you see that the artists had a specific role and was valued, as opposed to today, especially in America, where art isn't necessarily valued by the average person.


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What are your thoughts about being accepted into the Relevant Program?

I was just completely elated and felt this is such a great opportunity for me to really put myself out there for the first time and expose myself to a broader audience and not just to the people in my school or local community.

I liked that I would be working with a mentor. He's been pushing me to expand my ideas.

This has provided an opportunity for me to fully develop a piece and really give it deep attention and thought.

What do you hope to learn from your mentor?

He knows what the challenges of the art world are. We have been discussing how I can put words and imagery or whatever your medium is together to make your message available to be read and looked at by others.

That's something that is hard for me to conceive because I'm still in school and don't have that broad audience, yet. So, this is an opportunity for him to guide me.

What is your project about?

It is about the role of women in today's society. In my mind when it comes to race, gender and sexuality, most people in American may think we have come very far, but I think anyone can still be discriminated against for any reason. And we are not as far along as we think we area.

The work involves mixed media. I like incorporating technology into my work. It enables me to be free with my concepts and imagery.

I'm also using the clay printing process, because that can add great depth to the subject.

Rob McKirdie, sculpture, Rhode Island School of Design

Why did you want to become an artist?

I think the genesis of that came from the fact that I had a severe learning disability growing up. Subjects like writing was difficult for me, and visual arts was what I used to express myself.

I had a propensity to work with my hands and fixed things. I'm a very tactile when it comes to working artistically and sculpture just seemed like a logical progression in a way.

How has art enhanced your life experiences?

I think it enables me to see things in a different perspective. You train your eye to see the world in a way others don't see it. When you take art classes you learn about color theory and all about how light affects things, so you learn about the world in a different way.

What are your thoughts about being accepted into the Relevant Program?

I was very excited. I know a couple of people who went through the program previous to myself. I knew about the program and they encouraged me to apply.

What do you hope to learn from your mentor?

I'm not sure what the relationship will be like, but I'm interested to gain a different perspective in the way I look. After checking out his website, I do feel there are certain things we can connect with in a sculptural sense. Some of his early works interest me in discovering what it is that causes me to respond to those pieces.

What is your project about?

A lot of my work, lately, has been dealing with material gathering. I will gather materials from a specific place and create a work that reflects that place.

I'm interested in exploring historical aspects of certain places. I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and familiar with Park City. I have looked at the history of Park City and came up with some imagery that relates to that history.

Etsuko Kato Hansen, photography, University of Utah

Why did you want to become an artist?

I've never really wanted to become an artist, but I was raised by a father who was in the sushi business, so I have always wanted to created something. I view myself more as an egg of an artist.

How has art enhanced your life experiences?

I use art as another language, I use it to express my thoughts and things that I want to say. studying art I can understand more than just words, for example I can see the workings of other artists' hearts with more than just my eyes. What are your thoughts about being accepted into the Relevant Program?

Up until now I have been creating thing within the frame of school and on my days off from work. With the 8 days of this program I can create with out the restraints of school project requirements and work. I have never had a chance like this until now and am very thankful to the Relevant Artist Program for this opportunity.

What do you hope to learn from your mentor?

Because my mentor is actively involved with photography, she can show me not only things on the technical side, but also what I need for the artistic side. Even though it is a short period of time, I want to learn all that I can from this experience.

What is your project about?

My theme is of the Earthquake that happened in Japan in 2011. At the time that it happened I was in America. The things that I have felt as a Japanese person living in a foreign country and the things that I have learned from the earth quake over the last 2 Years since the earth quake. Through this project I would like to face the earthquake.

Stephanie Kelly Clark, painting and drawing, University of Utah

Why did you want to become an artist?

I didn't want to become an artist!!! I've always had a love and desire to create; and to be honest with my competitive spirit, be better creatively then everyone else around me. Because if that was the only way I was going to stand out and shine amongst the bigger stars around me, was to out- create the crap out of them. It wasn't till I started attending Dixie State College and took a couple art classes, was when I realized, "Hey I think I kind of LOVE making art." I realized art was my outlet from life and soon it became my life — and it kind of defines me now. Art has become a way of expressing who I am and my personality, in pretty, fun, unique ways. But all the while I was trying to figure this out; I actually was going to school to become an art teacher and thought, "well if I'm going to be an art teacher I might as well learn to be good at art." So I took my education further at the University of Utah where all the magic happened. The U.'s Art Program and all the instructors/artists I surrounded myself with, inspired and pushed me to actually get away from my traditional corner of painting boring still life's and become an artist and actually create. I explored and found new mediums and fell in love with the idea of not only one day becoming a teacher, but becoming a real artist as well.

How has art enhanced your life experiences?

Being an artist has definitely helped me figure out who I am as a person. It's brought to light my passions and my aversions. Exercising my creative side of the brain has opened my eyes to seeing the beauty in everything, even a pile of splattered road kill is beautiful to me. I've even become more of an open-minded person and see the love and beauty even human beings can possess. Being an artist has implemented a lifestyle that favors creativity, desire and lack of restrictions in my life. I may also add, if I had never became an artist, I would have never met my adoring husband who is also an artist (sculpture artist, him being a 3D artist, me being a 2D artist; that's why the relationship works). With that said, because he's an artist/my other half, I am enriched with creative stimulating conversation all the time. Plus I also have my own personal critic to help me with my ideas and process in the art making development.

What are your thoughts about being accepted into the Relevant Program?

I'm excited and nervous all at the same time. The purpose in which I desire to be an attendant of the 2013 "Relevant" Residency program, is simply further my conceptual endeavors with in my art. I'd like to take with me self-exploration, and simple further observations in my concepts. I'm thrilled to surround myself with nothing but creating and creative artists for 8 days straight —no really, I'm excited about that! I want to have that "Ah-Ha" moment in my art career (for the time being), in discovering new sugar in my work. I love the fiber/embroidered material's I've discovered; I want to push that material to new limits and explore more of what I can do with it. My brain is exploding with conceptual ideas and imagery that I want to study more of and create within my work. I'd like to dig a little deeper in my passions and what concepts hit home to me personally and finding ways to express it through my art and materials. I'm always finding little bits of myself when creating and can't wait to find more.

What do you hope to learn from your mentor?

I'd love to see her point of views and bring to light topics, issues, ideas, and new methods that I never saw within my work. I like this idea of having a new set of eyes and creative ideas working with you on something. I want to be beaten down with the constructive criticism stick (but softly). I'm looking forward to everything that comes with having a mentor during this residency.

What is your project about?

Well, anyone that's familiar with my work I consider myself a painter and I paint with thread known as embroidery floss. The process of transforming string into art struck me as something visually stimulating with complexity. I'm exploring the material using techniques that borrow more from the worlds of drawing and painting, engaging both traditional and innovative techniques in employing formal qualities with density, texture and pattern. I will be playing around with that process with in this Relevant piece. The embroidery process has had its way with me, leading me from hobby to art. My work is an ode to the traditions of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using thread instead of oils has allowed me to bring new purpose to the definition of "painting." My work blurs the lines between fine art and craft. I'd like to think I can reclaim the word "craft" which contains the idea of an unusual frame of knowledge and skill passed on from generation to generation. The use of craft such as embroidery fits my concept of domesticity, therefore my process and material becomes involved in the concept of my work. The idea of using embroidery permeates the feelings of my grandma's home and the embroidery skills she has passed down to me. With that, I use embroidery to create the domestic feel to tell the story of life in the home and family. (The) Relevant piece I will be creating is personal and is about my family and those close around me.

Annie Farrington Ulrich, studio art and theater, Middlebury College, Vermont

Why did you want to become an artist?

I don't really know. I have always made art since I can remember. Really the only thing that changed as I grew up was deciding to commit to doing what I love as a profession.

How has art enhanced your life experiences?

Art is as much a tool for learning as it is a creative release. Sometimes I'll see something and it will inform an idea I have percolating, or inspire something new. The act of making art is as much a way to make sense of what's around me as it is an expression of things I already know to be real. I guess you could say it has served as a mirror and a lens to view the world through, or to reflect back at it and hopefully inform our impressions of it.

What are your thoughts about being accepted into the Relevant Program?

I can't really believe it, to be honest! I heard about the program through an adviser at school who encouraged me to apply, and I did it without any real expectations. I don't know much about the art world beyond school, so I feel so grateful to have gotten the chance to participate in something like this!

What do you hope to learn from your mentor?

I'm hoping that rather than any specific sort of lesson, I get to experience a different sort of collaborative developmental process for my project. Talking about concepts and approaches always produces results you never expect at the start, and I hope the same turns out to be true with this project.

What is your project about?

The starting point for the project came from my background in costume design for theater as well as art. Using Shakespeare as a starting point, the project investigates the layering of gender identity through dress (think of the original Shakespearian players — boys dressed as women disguised as men). There are other ideas involved as well, but that's the core of the project.