May’s Member of the Month – Michelle Bush

Michelle Bush is a performance, installation and intervention artist interested in collaboration and community. Originally from Toronto (ON), she lived in Montreal (QC) for 20 years and moved to St. John’s (NL) in 2004, to work as Director of Eastern Edge Gallery.

She received her Master of Fine Art Degree from Concordia University, Montreal (QC) in 2004. She is an original member of the sound performance collective, Women With Kitchen Appliances and is presently the only Canadian participating in Linda Montano’s 7 Years of Living Art continuation with 6 other American participants. She presented her performance piece titled: Well Done! while participating on a panel discussion at The School of Visual Art in New York in 2002.. She has received support for her artistic projects through the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council,the Newfoundland and Labrador CEDP program, The City of St. John’s Art Council as well as The Canada Council for the Arts.

She is presently the Atlantic region representative on the Artist Run Centres and Collectives Conference (ARCCC-CCCAA) board of directors and a director on the Association of Artist Run Centres of the Atlantic (AARCA). She exhibited in Rock and Roll: a group show of contemporary artists working in Newfoundland, at the newly created A1C Gallery in September 2008. Most recently, in March 2009 she was invited to do a research residency at Artexte in Montreal with a presentation at La Centrale Gallery, in relation to the 4th year, the Green chakra year of the 7 Years of Living Art project.

10 Questions:

1. When did you first realize that you wanted to become an artist?

I can remember going to this amazing toy store in Toronto with my brother and sister and parents and being drawn immediately to the rows of colourful papers, pencils, paint etc. Every time I was asked what I wanted as a gift or treat, I would say art supplies, clay, pens, beads, material etc. I spent all my free time either making crafts or drawing or painting with my Mom or else my nose was stuck in a book until the wee hours of the night (which at that time would have been 10 pm!) My brother and sister were both very good drawers, I was more abstract. My grandfather was an artist and we went to openings, and every time we visited him, he would bring out these big wooden boards and paper for us to draw. I wanted an oil set for Christmas. I didn’t think of it as becoming an artist but just that I wanted to always be doing these creative things. I think the first career I thought of was a teacher and it wasn’t until I had gone through a few years of English Literature, Philosophy and Languages and had two children that I decided to go back to University in Fine Arts; Art Education actually. After doing way too many extra studio classes I went into my Masters in Studio Arts. I still didn’t think “I am going to be an artist” but I applied for shows and grants and was performing and getting involved with Artist Run Centres and ended up a cultural worker in them. And now I consider this part of my artistic practice.

2. What mediums do you work in and why?

Performance, installation, video, sound, dabble in print and photo. And thoroughly enjoy mixing in textiles. I just starting playing with everything around me in undergrad I guess. Then when I got to grad school these mediums just worked with what I wanted to do. I wish I spent more time on drawing and painting though. I would love to learn all techniques, including sculpting and more than I know in regards to ceramics too.

3. How do you get ideas for your artwork?

Pop into my head after a conversation, a visual, a hard day at work, a complaint, my friends, a feeling, a problem, a social issue (not very often!), a book, a thought, a daydream, but I really enjoy, especially with performance, to have a thematic or a scenario or a specific space that I have to work with. I love the in situ challenge.

4. What other artists influence your artwork?

I was told that obsessive artists were my influences, I don’t know, am I obsessive?

A lot of performance, everyday performance, art = life artists, dada, installation artists who use fragility, transparency, or bold polka dots. Linda Montano, Marina Abromovic, Patti Smith, all artists who can draw amazingly and contemporarily, Christof Migone, Vera Frenkel, Jens Hoffman, Sylvie Cotton, Coral Short, Ed Pien and so many more!

My mom, my grandad, my dad (he’s a musician).

When I was little, illustrations in books. My mom would give me the most beautifully illustrated books.

5. What are the ‘big’ themes in your artwork?

Collaboration, awkwardness, fragility, humour, obsession, repetition, vulnerability, community.

6. What is the greatest challenge you face as an artist working in Newfoundland and Labrador?

My job (and I left behind my performance collective in Montreal and my art buddies)

7. What is the best thing about working as an artist in this province?

My job (and all the artists around me who are awesome!)

8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Iceland, or maybe Dawson City, or elaborately playing kitchen appliances with an army of women traveling all over the world, a traveling sound performance collective!

9. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

Um… let me see…an arts administrator 🙂  or I might have been an accountant, I love numbers.

10. If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

That everyone could have 1 wish granted of course.