Since August, Kiki Farish has been artist in residence with teen programs at the N.C. Museum of Art.
Farish, 55, draws from her experience, both as an art instructor and as a working artist, to give school-age participants a feel for what life is like for a working artist. And she shares her own experiences – including those that drew her to her preferred medium, graphite.
“In the third grade, I remember the class reading a story together, and it didn’t really have an ending,” she says. Confused and frustrated, she asked her teacher why. “Because he wants you to finish it yourself,” she was told. The lesson stuck with her.
In addition to the teen artist residency, which continues through April, she keeps an open studio at Artspace in Raleigh and teaches art at Meredith College. The past few weeks have been eventful for her: the N.C. Arts Council announced that she would receive a 2014-15 visual artist fellowship, and she is one of 13 North Carolina artists featured in the “Line, Touch, Trace” exhibit at NCMA. We spoke to her about her work.
Q: What’s your connection to the two pieces that are in “Line, Touch, Trace”?
A: I think they’re both very good examples of a desire on my part to draw people in and become more intimate with the piece. It has to read well from 10 feet away, 15 feet away, and then I want them to get close enough to almost smell it. I think they’re both good examples of coming in close for detail and then feeling like you need to step back to see the whole.
One thing I’m realizing, and I’m trying to find a way to express this in my work, is continuity – what people went through in 2,000 BCE or whenever... the human condition is so much the same! There were rich people then and poor people then, sick people. When you read in the Bible those stories, it’s amazing how timeless, how connected they are to our experiences today.
Q: Is the line a timeline as well as a physical line on paper, then?
Q: In your work there’s a lot of conscious diffusion, where words are purposefully obscured. Why did you go with that?
A: I’m not a writer, so I don’t want it to be a narrative piece; I want the visual and verbal elements to work together. It means something to me, and I’m happy to explain to anyone that asks what I’m expressing, but I also want to leave room for the viewer to bring themselves to it and finish the story.
Q: You’re showing teens what it’s like to be a working artist today. What are their impressions, what do they think that is?
A: One of the teens that I talked to had been to my studio. She lives in Morrisville, but she goes to downtown Raleigh and had done First Friday and been to the Contemporary Art Museum. I got the feeling these teens are curious and they act on that curiosity.
One thing that I believe is that art is a place where you can take risks. It’s an opportunity for you to take risks and fail. It helps to build your skills as a decision maker.
Q: What are some other things you have covered so far during the teen residency?
A: I wanted to make sure they had a foundation of visual languages. We talked about line and the information that’s imbedded in line, the pace of a line. If somebody’s weak, the mark that they make looks differently, and we read these things on a subconscious level.
We looked, for example, at a drawing by Degas, a dancer. It was one of his studies, it wasn’t meant to be a production piece. I asked them, was there some place they felt like he was sort of fussing over? They agreed that it’s the dancer’s left hand, and it’s almost like he wanted to make sure he got it right. By doing that, he kind of destroys the work.