Image above: Felice House, Becoming Ocotillo, oil on canvas, 48” x 24”, 2016
PoetsArtists will feature interviews of a few artists included in Issue #81, as well as in the upcoming exhibition at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO titled SIGHT UNSEEN. Here, curator Alia El-Bermani speaks with artist Felice House.
AE: Could you please introduce yourself? Where do you currently live? Where did you grow up? Did you attend an art school or are you self taught? How did you find yourself an artist?
FH: Through my portraits of woman, I strive to provide a counterpoint to the passive female representations found in art historical tradition and culture at large. I received a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA in painting from the University of Texas. Additionally, I studied at the Schuler School of Fine Arts, a classical atelier in Baltimore, Maryland. I am an assistant professor at Texas A&M University and live and work in Austin, Texas.
I became an artist following in the footsteps of my mother. She is a representational drawer/painter who fought to piece together a strong traditional skill set despite the modernist trends in academic art programs during her schooling. Throughout my youth, she would paint and draw from life in the studio she had in our house in Western Massachusetts. When I was a small child she would take me with her to life drawing sessions. Because of her, I grew up with posters of Ingres’ portrait of the “Countess d'Haussonville” and Renoir’s “Girl with a Falcon” in my bedroom. When I walked into my first painting class in college, holding a box of my mother’s old paints, I felt perfectly at home. My mom and I still talk painting all the time.
AE: Do you have any kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals that help your production?
FH: When I was in my twenties, I loved to paint at night. I have fond memories of walking home from the studio at the break of day when the business people were getting up and going to work. Though I still love that idea, my older self enjoys sleeping at night and my job and family have some expectation to see me during the day. I feel lucky to teach at a research institution where half of my job is my studio work and exhibition record. To the degree possible I try to complete my job related duties of teaching and service M-W leaving Th – Sat for the studio. I have a hard time switching gears between projects so when I am about to start a new large piece I block out at least three days where I can work uninterrupted in the studio. Once the initial phase is complete, I make smaller adjustments, in shorter periods of time, over a series of weeks.
AE: Can you describe your work(s) included in Sight Unseen? How did the ideas for these works come about? How do you see them tying into the theme of Sight Unseen?
FH: My work included in Sight Unseen comes from, Sum You Some Me, a two-person exhibition created in collaboration with my husband, sculptor Dana Younger. The series was inspired by this Salman Rushdie quote:
“I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I'm gone which would not have happened if I had not come.”
These pieces, which depict the head and shoulders of women intertwined with the landscape, ask the viewer to project and reflect on his or her own sense of self, nature, and wholeness. Essentially, they beg the viewer to go beyond the seen into Sight Unseen.
By cropping the portraits just past the shoulders, I am encouraging the viewer to focus on women’s real power center, their head.
AE: As artists, we often go through a sort of series of mini-epiphanies while we work. What has been a most touching or profound moment you've experienced as an artist either in the studio or in dealing with the public?
FH: When I was fourteen my parents sent me on a trip to Italy organized by my Latin teacher. At that time, I had never been out of the country, or on a plane. One of the tours we took was to the Sistine Chapel. Just before entering the main chapel a very clear thought came to me. It said that I would become a painter, and study in Italy. I have never forgot that moment of unexpected clarity. I guess somewhere beyond the haze of my teen brain, my heart knew what it wanted.
AE: Is there anything else you would like to share?
FH: I feel very fortunate to be included in this stellar exhibition and want to thank Alia El-Bermani and Didi Menendez for making this excellent collection of work possible. I am excited to see all the work at the opening on Feb 24th at Abend Gallery in Denver.
To view more of Felice House's work visit: http://felicehouse.com
February 24 - March 25, 2017
Opening Reception Friday Feb 24
Abend Gallery Denver, CO