[2 minutes avec Elise Boudreau Graham]
Interdisciplinary Artist & Co-founder of @friendsandneighbours
"To be an artist, what does that mean to you?
This is a difficult question, one I ask myself pretty much every day. I don’t have a definitive answer but I can say that it’s only been recently (after a solo show last summer) that I’ve finally said to myself, “Yes. This is what I do; I am an artist”. What I like about making art is that gives me the time and space to materially explore ideas that are bouncing around my brain.
I worry that being an artist is too self-indulgent, particularly in these post-Trump times. I dislike when people use euphemisms such as, art will change the world because I think that is trite and untrue. I don’t really know how to navigate these feelings but they push me to make stronger work and to be more responsible for the space I take up as an artist who is White and cis.
I try to remind myself that making art with political themes isn’t enough; I have to leave the studio sometimes and become involved in community projects/groups/actions. Talk the talk, walk the walk, so to speak.
For you, can an artist be an entrepreneur?
I think the distinction is becoming increasingly ambiguous.
Artists are compelled to manage themselves like small business owners for a variety of reasons ―such as cuts to arts funding and a generally precarious job market―while creativity has become a catchall job requirement for every field of work imaginable.
I looked up a definition of entrepreneur online and it said, “a person who organizes and operates a business, ...taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” I think the word risk is correct; being an artist is usually a very unstable financial situation but if we aren’t careful the efforts of professionalization can eclipse or dull our work and it’s content.
I think about labour A LOT in my art practice. I recently read Art Workers: Radical Practice in Vietnam Era by Julia Bryan-Wilson about theWorkers Art Coalition (AWC), a group of New York artists during the late sixties who organized around the identity of Art Worker and worked collectively to protest the war and advocate for artists’ rights. I wouldn’t say that the AWC was successful in reaching their goals and their tactics should be looked at critically but I am very interested in learning from how the Coalition organized together as a class of workers for institutional change.
If anyone is interested in a more contemporary effort, the Get Artists Paid collective is doing some great work.
What are your artistic influences?
I read Mierle Laderman Ukeles’#ManifestoforMaintenanceArt about once a month.
I spend way too much time browsing thrift stores and yard sales, especially the craft and home decor sections. I am very influenced by old domestic objects and handicrafts probably because I grew up in rural Nova Scotia where I was not exposed to contemporary art but craft was very present. Even as a child, I’ve been a freak about meticulous, time-consuming projects. And of course valuing work made by feminine people.
I learned how to play drums two years ago and now I am in a band called Ugly Cry. Being involved in a group music project has made me to chill out, be less of a control freak, take risks when it comes creative production, and I’d like to think that this has also carried over to my art practice. I want to start working more collaboratively in my studio.
I always, always come back to Jenny Holzer’s work.
What concerts, exhibitions, vernissages etc. have marked you?
I saw Elysia Crampton play at OBEY Convention in Halifax last month and her performance was so magnetic.
#AlexandraBell's piece about Michael Brown and the media coverage following his death is such an important and successful use of public art (https://lc.cx/SrTM).
This interview with curator Gaby Cepeda really resonated with me, especially when she talks about the movement of art and capital (https://lc.cx/SrTA).
What artistic places in Montreal deserve special attention?
JG’s show Flashy Pictures is up at Notre Dame Des Quilles (32 Beaubien E) from June 2nd - 30th. Their work and their work ethic inspires me (https://lc.cx/SrTP).
Friends & Neighbours Gallery is the space I run with my two pals (Barbara Scheed and @Lee Roth). Our second show, Take Me Away has a vernissage on July 16th. It’s a group show and I am very excited to install everyone’s work, including a piece by Toronto artist Vida Bayer (vidabeyer.com) (and several Montreal people)."