Recently I sat down with my friend and extremely talented artist Serena Louise Williams. I have had the pleasure of working, learning, and hanging with Serena for the past couple years and her personal style as well as artist aesthetic is vibrant and inspiring. What started as a coffee catch up at St, Mark’s Coffeehouse (see review) in Denver became a stimulating conversation about Serena’s art.
While she received a BA in Visual Arts K-12 Teaching at the University of Northern Colorado and has contributed improved art curriculums in schools Serena’s heart lies in fine art. With her drive and creativity she definitely has the potential to realize her aspirations and follow her dream of living abroad in order to spread her artistic spirit.
You are HERE (YAH): I want to talk about the inspiration behind the three series you are featuring in your portfolio on Art By Serena Louise.. When I look at “The ‘Unorthadox’ Series” you chose to examine the fascinating form of octopi. Growing up in Colorado I want to know where this very fluid seaside influence came from because it seems unexpected from an artist living in a land locked state?
Serena Louise (SL): The Unorthodox series began as a color study for my final semester of college. I wanted to go big and bold with little concept. The symbol of the octopus is a fascinating one. For those who don’t know, they have the ability to remove their limbs. This could be a tool for escape in time of danger, they grow them back with no harm to themselves. My father grew up in St. Petersberg, Florida. He spent a lot of his youth visiting the islands of the Caribbean. He told me a story once, where he was diving around old shipwrecks and found an octopus stuck inside of a toilet. He watched amazed as this octopus literally ripping itself apart to escape the porcelain prison. The octopus showed that it easily lets go. They are said to be independent and choose their own paths. In a personification of the octopus, they are “unorthodox” doing things in an alternative manner and achieving similar or better results. I feel that I am, in a way, that alternative in my life. Therefore, I am the “unorthodox” creature.
YAH: Moving onto “Face” I see the subtle reference to the artist St. Vincent in “St. Vincent Polka Dot.” Are all of these almost caricatures based off figures in popular culture or is St. Vincent in inspiration to you?
SL: “Faces” started out as sketching exercises and I soon developed a style with pen. Some of the faces were from my own imagination. Most of the faces in the series are from references, however, I always take my own liberties when creating them. I change their facial structure, or expression, and give them a new name. Most, honestly, are models in the fashion industry. “St. Polka Dot” is indeed St. Vincent. She has not become an inspiration for me, but I adore the aesthetics of her face.
YAH: Who or what does influence your work?
SL: My childhood has influenced my work in a very deep way. Being an only child, I was left to my own imagination for my adventures in entertainment. My dad had created such a unique home with all his handy skills. The entire house was his work and the yards were filled with magic. Thus, the style of whimsy within my work. Secondly, the concept of “Wabi Sabi”, a term coined by the Japanese. It means to find beauty in the imperfect. After creating pieces for more than half my life, I have found that my art is so far from perfect. There is something always quirky or slightly off about it. Wabi Sabi has become a purposeful act in my life. I am also inspired by the German Expressionists of the early 1900s.
YAH: I see “The Bird Hause” as very bright and playful work, tell me about this?
SL: “The Bird Hause” was the start of my obsession with watercolors. I was learning to gain control over the pigment and the water ratios. I am proud to say that watercolor is the one major skill in the mediums of art that I am completely self taught. It is one of the most difficult forms of painting there is, at least in my opinion. “The Bird Hause” was my door to the wonders of that medium. Birds are the most naturally whimsical animals on the planet (besides fish). They possess colors and patterns out of this world. They have the ability to walk, fly, and swim. How could I not go there? The series began with “Fran” the swan. I began to imagine all the species of birds, how each one was so different and presented a different level of control. Giving them all names made them more relatable and almost personified them. “The Bird Hause” is like a family portrait.
YAH: I know a lot of people like to ask where you see yourself as an artist in the future but I want to know what direction do you see for your art in the future coinciding with your development as an artist?
SL: I see my art growing outward, bringing with it the continued themes of life paths, animal symbolism, and never forgetting the playfulness. I never want to take myself too seriously, and always have fun creating. I see my art taking on new forms, becoming larger, grander, and maybe even changing dimensions.
YAH: Do you think there are specific challenges or advantages that come with being an artist in Denver versus say an over saturated urban art center like New York or San Francisco?
SL: Yes! Oh my word, challenges are endless, I think being in any city. Denver may not be as large as those saturated cities, but it already holds its established groups of artists. When being an emerging artist, finding your niche in a community that shares the same values as you is a huge obstacle. I have a photographer friend that lives in San Francisco and his advice is to carve your own niche. I think being entrepreneurial today is the best way to go about being an artist in a city. The advantage of living in Denver is the exposure you have to all the art and life styles, but there is still room for your own look.
YAH: Speaking of San Francisco, the last time we talked you were doing a sort of combined piece with a friend living there. This is really interesting, how does this “shared piece” work?
SL: My friend Marcos and I agreed to do a collaborative project in hopes of sparking our own individual works. He is a photographer and I am kind of a jack of all trades. We have been mailing a 12″ by 12″ canvas back and forth, for about a year now, adding images each time. For each canvas we choose a theme and a medium. This one we are about to complete was themed “Action” and we used photography and painting to collage. After each “turn” we write a small response on the images we chose and why. Developing literature with art is vital. We usually have a loose deadline of completing our “turn” in 3 days and then mailing it back. But life happens, and things get pushed aside. I am hoping that we can develop a large portion of collaged canvases and start a blog. Someday we hope to even do a show in the Bay Area and in Denver.
Find out about Serena Louise’s latest project “Finders Keepers” and check out all of her work online. I can’t wait to see more from this artist in the future, definitely a creator who will never stop growing and pushing her limits.