Featured artist Christine Croteau talks about making work with found materials and using art as a tool for conversation and healing. Read our interview to learn how this resourceful artist got her start, and where she’s headed next.
When did art become a pursuit for you?
Six years ago, when I took my first art class. It was at the Worcester Art Museum with Lynn Simmons, Contemporary Sculpture…it blew me away! Out of this class, a group of us contemporary artists of varied mediums (Mark Spencer, Phil Marshal, Ted Lilley, Joanne Holtje and myself) initiated by Lynn Simmons, formed an artist group that has since put on four shows at the Sprinkler Factory Gallery.
How did you first become involved with ArtsWorcester?
Ted Lilley encouraged me for several years to join, but I resisted out of fear of the unknown and not thinking I was a real artist. But over the years of attending openings at ArtsWorcester and seeing Phil Marshal, Mark Spencer and Ted Lilley submit pieces, win prizes and grow from their experiences in this group, I took the plunge! It was one of the smartest decisions I have made as an artist. ArtsWorcester has connected me to many other artists, events, classes, etc. For example, one night at an opening I met Madeleine Lord, a fellow sculptor who works with found objects and we became instant friends and supporters of each other’s work. I have learned so much from my introduction to Madeleine. She taught me how to weld!
What medium do you currently work in, and how did you choose this medium?
I mostly work as a sculptural installation artist. I work primarily with found or recycled objects. This medium sort of chose me. I am low income and lack the resources needed to afford fancy sculpture materials, tools, shipping etc. I spoke with Lynn about this at my first class and she said “Just work with objects in your everyday life that speak to you or have a voice.” So I did. I have Type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetes and have made several sculptures using leftover medical supplies. I also made a sculpture out of 800 time cards from my father’s 30-year career as a postal worker.
What is your creative process?
Usually I have to have a show coming up to generate ideas. The ideas are flowing all the time but I don’t really pay attention to them all unless a show is on the horizon. Usually shows will have some sort of theme, so I meditate on that theme while hiking, biking running, swimming, doing yoga, meditating formally, or while writing. I’ll also have conversations with people about the topic, maybe Google or research others’ works on this theme. Ideas generally just start to come and objects associated with those ideas come. I do collect and save certain objects that have special meaning to me, or that jump out at me on a hike or elsewhere, that seem to have a voice. I also have seven years worth of old diabetes supplies acquired that I’ve made three different installations with over the years.
How do you choose your subject matter? Are there themes that recur throughout your work?
Again, the subject matter usually chooses me. It’s usually something deeply personal or something that I feel effects me strongly on a daily basis (i.e. sexism, spirituality, emotions, family, physical health, current events). I need to express my emotions around these topics in some way and creating sculptures or installations does that for me. Art is a means of expression for me but it is also a way for me to hear other people express themselves. My sculptures are as much about the conversations and ideas from others that evolve out of them as they are about the piece itself. Having people come together, share ideas and connect around difficult topics usually works best if there is a third party in the room.
What other media or directions would you like to explore?
I’d like to explore more of how to do community building through art, particularly around areas currently faced with divisiveness such as race, class, gender and religion. I’d like to learn more about the interface of spirituality and art, combining more art with yoga. I am a yoga teacher and taught a few one-session classes that incorporated art. The class and I loved it so I’m considering pursuing that more. Lastly, I have an MA in Social Rehabilitation Counseling and would like to combine that with art. I would like to teach how art can be used as a means to heal from physical and emotional traumas and addictions.
What is your favorite memory at ArtsWorcester?
Swinging on the in-house swing at Studio 44!