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335 West Ann Street
Ann Arbor, MI, 48104
United States

Threads All Arts Festival


UMS Artist in Residence Siobhan McBride

Karen Toomasian

Lang sat down for an interview with UMS Artist in Residence, Siobhan McBride. Here's what Siobhan has to say:

Threads: How would you describe your work for someone who has never seen it, or doesn’t know who you are?

Siobhan: I make small paintings in Acryla gouache. Although gouache is flat by nature, the paintings have many layers. I use tape to delineate shapes or lay down areas of tape and cut shapes out with a knife. I then paint into the taped boundaries. The paintings are accumulations of numerous layers of painted shapes.The paintings are descriptions of weird and quotidian experiences, passages from books, film fragments, things caught in the corner of my eye, and an attempt to conjure slippery memories. I hope the work is strange and suspenseful like the excitement of exploring a new place, and the thrill of knowing you are drifting back into a frightening dream.

T: As a kid, when did you start drawing/ painting? and did you begin in any different medium or type of art?

S: I probably started drawing at the same time I learned to shape my first letters. I’d try to draw letters then try to draw a dog. Most people do some sort of drawing at a very early age. I colored Easter eggs and carved pumpkins. I had a chalkboard and drew our house in cross section with all the furniture, like a doll house. I ate crayons and pencil erasers.

T: Do you think there was a good community of the arts where you grew up?

S: I grew up in Queens, NY where there is a rich community and so much art to see. I can gorge there in a way I haven’t experienced anywhere else. As an adult, I wasn’t serious about making art until I moved to Philadelphia for school and I found a wonderful community and life long friends.

T: Any Suggestions for younger artists just getting started?

S: Go see as much art, in person, as possible. Every time you take a trip, make a point to see art. Spend much more time making things than thinking about making things.

T: Who would you say are the biggest influences on your work?

S: For me, influences change all the time. Something or someone that looms large one year might disappear in significance the next. I love Jan Van Eyck, Brueghel, and Vermeer. I love James Castle. I love Bonnard and Vuillard. The films of Michelangelo Antonioni for creating empty spaces that feel charged with meaning. Many novels, this last year Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and Ursula K LeGuin The Dispossessed. Always, Nabokov’s short story Signs and Symbols.

T: Could you give a brief summary of the UMS artist in residence program and what it has allowed you to do personally in relation to your art?

S: Residents get tickets for four shows of their choosing and a stipend. We see shows and get together occasionally to discuss our experiences. It’s given me the opportunity to meet incredibly talented people (the residents, the folks who run the program, performers) and see some remarkable shows that I might not have otherwise seen.

T: Has Ann Arbor, either as a geographic place or an artistic environment, affected your art?

S: I am new to Ann Arbor so it’s hard to tell. I’ve moved around a lot. It tends to take some time for a place to impact my work. My palette is possibly darker. I lived in Miami before moving here and of course the climate was very different.

T: I've got a theory that you can tell a lot about a person based on what their favorite bad movie is, what is yours?

S: Anything with Nicolas Cage. He’s made a few excellent films many really terrible ones. I’ll watch them all; I don’t care.

T: If you could be a plant or nonhuman animal, what would you be?

S: I would be a green, or night, heron or an otter, or a mushroom colony.