Thursday Spotlight: Ayame Bullock

Tell us about your background.

I have recently come to realize how much my upbringing has influenced the trajectory of my work. I was born in the Hawaiian Islands, shortly after, my family moved to Orcas Island in Washington State. I have always lived in places surrounded by large bodies of water. On Orcas Island my family started an educational Permaculture farm where they teach sustainable agriculture and living systems. After many years of aimless wandering, helping out on the farm, and living off odd jobs, I decided to go to school and received my BFA in Painting from RISD in 2011.

Name some people, artists, genres, ect that have been influential to my work.

I look at a wide variety of artists, some for their use of material, some for composition, and others for their social/ecological documentation. Those most influential to me include El Anatsui, Steven Seigel, Fabian Marcaccio, Judy Phaff, Elliot Hundley, Arte Povera, Eva Hesse and Post-minimalism, painters of the Sublime, Japanese Ukiyo-e artists, and photographers Edward Burtynsky and Chris Jordan.

Where and how did you get your ideas?

At the core of all my investigations lays an interest in self -destructive behavior of humans, both in the personal physical expression and the environmental expression of self-destruction. Through this, themes of toxicity, accumulation, tension/release, time, impermanence, and cyclical patterns in nature are explored.

This interest in self-destruction, in conjunction with my upbringing on a sustainable farm, and the presence of water in my living environments has made the North Pacific Garbage Gyre an immediate and magnetic metaphor for my work. Having a topic such as this allows me to explore the personal while also expressing concern for current social issues like consumerism, and the effects of our “throw away” culture on the environment.

What materials do you work with? Describe your technical process.

I use a wide variety of materials and techniques: found/landfill-bound materials (mostly plastics/fabrics), paint (oil and acrylic), charcoal, and some photography. I use my materials in a cyclical manner. Materials used in the process of making: dried scraps of paint, tape, paper, and studio debris circulate back in to the work. Old paintings or drawings that are unsuccessful are cut up and woven back into new works.

Bodily engagement is very important in my work. Some of my work is based on exploration of the subconscious and is about the flow of my physical body and its relationship and movement across a surface. At other times my work becomes more concept/material based, its physicality slows down and becomes meticulous constructions involving weaving, sewing, braiding, cutting, pulling, and stretching.

What is the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part?

The most challenging part of being creative is having trust in myself, and not making rigid expectations of what my work should be or look like. Another challenge for me is negotiating my love of beauty with un-beautiful subject matter. In order for me to stay engaged with my work there must be a certain level of “beauty,” so finding a balance is a constant struggle.

The best part of being creative is that thrill and invigorating energy you feel when everything is working smoothly…when you don’t have to stop and second guess… when you don’t doubt yourself or what others think… you just know.

What advice would you give someone seeking advice about being an artist?

Expect the unexpected of yourself. Constantly challenge yourself, and give yourself permission to fail…a lot.

Ayame’s blog

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