Kirsten McCrea is a multi-disciplined artist with an impressive resume, which includes being showcased in AGO’s First Thursdays, murals with the collaborative drawing initiative En Masse, and of course sitting at the helm of Papirmass. Her work pops with a patterning style that is distinctly her own and we are pleased to be featuring her in Issue 66 alongside the short story “Falling is Rational” by Larissa Diakiw.
Who are you and what are you all about?
I’m an artist and the Founder and Publisher of Papirmass. I grew up in a cold city called Edmonton, waaaay up north in Canada (though still only about halfway up the country – respect to everyone who lives north of the 53rd parallel!). I spent a few years in Montreal, where I got into collaborative drawing and wheatpasting, en route to my current home in Toronto.
Your piece for our June issue showcases your telltale patterning – can you tell us more about your interest with patterning? What are you working on right now?
On a base level, patterning viscerally grabs me. There is just something so pleasing about a repeating image. You can get a little lost in it. Drawing a repeating image is very meditative.
Patterned motifs are one of the few things that could potentially be called a human universal. I’m so wary of the idea of universals, but patterning is present in almost all cultures. Yet, while the idea is consistent across cultures, specific motifs are so specific that in a glance you often know exactly which part of the world a particular pattern is from. I generally make up my own patterns because I am concerned about cultural appropriation, but some of the motifs I use are present across cultures for millennia. The scallop pattern I love can be found in Japanese and Maori designs, but I saw it in the Met on an African vase from the year 600 BC. I love thinking that something is rooted in one place and discovering that its origins are much deeper.
I’m working on a drawing series right now called Werewolf Ladies, using patterning to create a feminist response to the consistently masculine folkloric werewolf. Women are (also nearly universally) taught to either cover their hair, shave it, burn it off, tear it out or otherwise tame it. The portraits I am working on aim to highlight how hair is used as a signifier of identity, sexual orientation, economic status and power.
If you had a daily soundtrack, what would be five songs that would make it on the track list?
I have a terrible habit of having one song that I really like and listening to it on repeat. Right now I actually have three contenders vying for my attention: Vanished, by Crystal Castles, The Killing Moon, by Echo and the Bunnymen, and Here Comes My Baby, by Cat Stevens (it’s just so happy!).
Peanut butter or jelly?
Almond butter. Jelly and jam actually really weird me out. I can’t quite wrap my mind around fresh fruit sticking around for so long in a weird, bastardized form (even though I’m down with ketchup).
Best book you’ve read?
No bests, but some perennial favourites:
Non-fiction: One River by Wade Davis.
A real life Indiana Jones who teaches at Harvard and studies the relationship of people to plants in the rainforest? Yes.
Fiction: The First Bad Man by Miranda July. When I read this book I felt as though I had never read anything written so honestly from a woman’s perspective before. I’ve read a lot of female authors, but July captures something new. And she’s really funny.
Short Stories: The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman (just read it – it’s really short and amazing) and Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders (again, just read it. You’re welcome).
Theory-almost-becomes-poetry: Notes on America by Jean Baudrillard. This is what happens when a brilliant French theorist goes on a solo road trip across America and writes about it. It contains the best description of Las Vegas you will ever read.
Biography: Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol by David Dalton and Tony Scherman. One of the few bios I’ve ever read and gave me an incredible understanding of the debt contemporary art owes to Warhol, and the origins of my own art practice.
I was going to put down Gravity’s Rainbow 50-pages in and then finished it out of spite after a friend said if I didn’t like it, it was because I wasn’t well-read. I honestly did not connect with this sprawling mess of a novel at all, but I read all 400 pages of it. I do really love Zach Smith’s book Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow, which is what got me to pick it up in the first place.
You are a part of En Masse, a phenomenal Montreal-based art collaborative project! If you could wrangle up your own En Masse, who would be a part of it?
I actually get to paint with many of my favourite living artists in En Masse, so I will make my dream team entirely of deceased artists! I would have Andy Warhol and Basquiat because even though they would probably be a little difficult to work with, we know they can collaborate. Sister Corita Kent (aka the screen printing nun). And I would invite Lucian Freud, but only if he agreed to bring Leigh Bowery along to keep us company.
What’s on your horizon for next year?
I just finished a large mural (130 feet long, 20 feet tall) for Telus’s Days of Giving Social Art Rally, and will be painting the pillar of an underpass for the Pan Am Games Live Art Festival next week. All of this has got me thinking that a lot of the smaller drawings that I’ve been working on for the last few years would work great on a LARGE scale, so here’s hoping there are more murals in my future!
I’m planning an exhibition in Toronto in the fall (stay tuned for details), and, of course, am continually working away on finding great artists and writers to share with the world via Papirmass.
Kirsten McCrea is our June 2015 artist. See more at hellokirsten.com