The Brush as a Sword: Interview with Anne Plaisance
Anne Plaisance received a Master’s Degree in International Trade from Paris I University, Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris, France and a harp diploma from the Aubervilliers-La Courneuve Dance & Music Conservatory. She worked in Poland for major advertisement agencies and opened her own company in 2005, while also being the Communications Director in a leading real estate company. In 2010, she changed her path and spent one preparatory year at ASP Art University in Warsaw. She also worked as a designer for a luxury jewelry brand -1480. Since then she took part in more than 100 exhibitions internationally. She moved to Boston in 2015, received a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council in 2016, and another one from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2017 for her “Art’s room” project with homeless women survivors of domestic violence (www.theartsroomproject.com). She works in mixed media, painting, installation, and video.
An iron hand in a velvet glove. That’s my art. That’s me. I’m not interested in pretty pictures for the sake of it; life is too short. I put my anger, gratitude, love, greed for life and hate together. I mix them, and shout visually what I can’t tell with words. I extract my fears, demons, and my rage against the social injustice: my brush is my sword.
I use a diverse array of media, which is constantly evolving: painting, installation, sculpture, collages, sketchbooks and video, paper, canvas, cloth, tears, dolls, Louis Vuitton bags, clay, barbed wire, old 18th century missal, maps, and furniture.
Tell us about your creative journey. How has your work evolved over the years?
Good question... As I get more confidence in what I do, as I meet more people appreciating my work, helping me on this creative journey, I make projects that are more and more ambitious (maybe even crazy at first glance). I try to get rid of some boundaries I think I have. I am closer and closer to what I need and want to express, I hesitate less to reach for help, opinion or funds. I think my art gets bolder and stronger. In 2017 for example, my art was censored during the "Girls just wanna have fun”(damental rights) at a church in Lexington, and there was an offended comment regarding my Badrooms doll house piece during the Wonder Women exhibition at the French Cultural Center in Boston (to some people the F… word seemed more shocking than domestic violence). So it goes in a bolder direction.
What would you say your art is about?
My art is about gender issues, social justice, taboos, society as well as beauty. I’m kind of attracted to difficult subjects: child sexual abuse denunciation in “Badrooms" installation, domestic violence denunciation in "the art’s room project" done with homeless women in Cambridge, issues women have to face on a daily basis in the "Born to" series (a diary like an approach). It’s socially engaged art.
Transparency and openness are vital to art-making. Tell us about how you approach your subject matter and what you hope to share with those experiencing your work.
I approach my subjects each time as if it was the last project, installation or painting I would do, and give myself entirely to the extend of what I know, what I can, the time I have, and what I can afford. Every time I feel a bit shy in front of the blank canvas, as if it was the very first time. Kind of weird I guess. I try to provoke an emotion and/or a thought, but I also accept that some people experiencing my work might just feel nothing (or hate it) and it’s ok, it’s normal. Art is the language of the soul, with some you connect, with some others you don’t. Life happens..
What inspires you? How do you come up with the content for each piece?
Everything. Beauty, people, books, music, words, articles, films, stories, conversations, politics.... but It depends on the project. For Badrooms, I came up with the idea when I read one more time a foolish misogynistic comment about a woman being raped in the woods… I just couldn’t stand it, I had to do something, so I began the Badrooms project, for which I plan to make 100 boxes (in which dolls are pinned, thus similar to butterflies). I have 60 for now. From anger against rape, it came to anger against sexual child abuse. It kind of resonated with me and was more urgent. I have another project in mind regarding the rape culture but it’s so strong I don’t know if I will have the emotional strength to make it. We’ll see.
Regarding the painting “born to be abused”, I just cannot accept that 1/3 of women will be abused in their life. It’s like putting a stamp on women when they are born, indicating they will be abused no matter what they are or do. It’s unacceptable. Things need to change in our society, in our world, in each of us. Maybe it’s difficult, but it’s not an excuse to not try.
How important is experimentation and play in your practice?
It is vital, I used to do it on a more regular basis before moving to the United States - via traveling alone or with a group of artists I explored ideas in sketchbooks. Now I “force" myself to dedicate time to experiment more, on a small scale, I struggle to find and respect this “Me/creative” time. I have plenty of ideas that I write in notebooks, I make small sketches, sometimes I go with these ideas, sometimes I just abandon them to explore more urgent and important ones.
Name a few of your creative influences.
Gosh, the list is long, there are so many amazing artists and great minds, dead and alive. but if I could meet with my dream team of influencers - beyond time, culture and distance, it would be Kiki Smith, Kara Walker, Hayv Kahraman, Louise Bourgeois, Kurt Schwitters, Leonardo Da Vinci, Balthus, Edward Hopper, Roman Opalka, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zygmunt Bauman, Eve Ensler, Margaret Atwood, and many many more...
What is something you are proud of in your art career so far?
I’m proud of 2 projects: Badrooms: despite the difficulty, I move on, I keep doing it even though it’s a tough and taboo subject. When it was shown in 2017 in South Shore Art Center, survivors came and thanked me: that was my biggest reward. And I’m proud of the Art’s Room Project with homeless women, survivors of domestic violence. Bringing some healing, seeing their smiles, doing fun art workshops with them. It's something that warms up my heart. I know it’s a tiny drop in the ocean of needs, but it’s mine, it gives me a sense of purpose.
What are you currently working on and what's next for you?
Presently I am working on small mixed media works, big paintings on canvas, a sculpture. The small works on paper began this year as a working routine deeply needed, bringing me joy. They allow me to experiment, play, make more works, have fun, throw them away, build up experience, and learn how to let go when I’m not happy with them. Recently I was working mainly on a big canvas, where the error margin is really thin. I want to allow myself to make bad art, ugly and crazy things that I wouldn’t want anyone to see:) just because. Besides, I’m preparing a show in April at Concord Art, MA.
Regarding the big canvases, since It’s a process of several months for each, I work on a brand new series I could show next year in a gallery. I don’t have yet gallery representation but think that I’m ready now for this big step - I’ll take care of this in the next 3-6 months. In addition to that, I plan to hopefully finish this year my Badrooms project, and then find a museum with strong guts to show it in the next 2-3 years.
As far as my Art’s Room project is concerned, I’ve just been informed that I’ve received for the second time, a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Cambridge Arts Council, so I will work further on art workshops for homeless women, creating with them a new body of work that I would like to exhibit in New York City, in order to increase awareness about the issue, and show how these women are incredible wonder women:)