In the Studio: Kieran Riley Abbott

IMG-09381. Please tell us where you are from and how you got to where you are today? (A little bit about yourself)

I grew up in Minneapolis, MN, and lived there through college. Since then I’ve been hopping around the east coast, living in the Hudson Valley (at Women’s Studio Workshop), Vermont (where I was a staff-artist at Vermont Studio Center), and Cape Cod. I just moved to Philadelphia and I’m hoping to stick around here for a while.


2. Please describe your work and tell us a little bit about your creative process.

In my recent work I’m interested in the flexibility and fallibility of geometric forms and linear perspective. I explore this through printmaking, drawing, photography, sculpture – and recently, these optical tools which very directly warp our field of vision in surprising ways. My process involves experimentation with materials, and a balance between control and chance. For inspiration I spend a lot of time in libraries and on the internet researching scientific diagrams, vernacular architecture, maps, puzzles, and optical illusions.


3. I understand you recently started a new apprenticeship with the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. What are your ultimate goals for your time at this influential, dynamic space?

The apprenticeship has been amazing so far. I’m considering pattern and scale within my work in ways I hadn’t before. Creating a repeat pattern is creating a puzzle – the pieces have to lock together perfectly to produce a successful illusion of continuity. The idea of repetition and multiples is something I’ve had to consider a lot previously in relation to printmaking – creating editions of a print, for example – but it’s different when the multiples are all being seen at once on a big piece of fabric. When drawing the pattern, you have to remember that any mark, gesture, image is repeated dozens of times, and how does this change how the mark, gesture, image is read? For me it’s an exercise in seeing the parts and the whole simultaneously. Technically speaking, the process of printing repeat patterns onto fabric is fascinating as well, and it’s highly collaborative – just to pull the squeegee across the silkscreen requires at least two people! We apprentices rely on each other to complete our work.


4. How has social media influenced your practice?

In more ways than I’d like to admit! Instagram has been an extremely useful tool for discovering new artists and keeping up with people I’ve met in school and at residencies. I have made good friends, received exhibition opportunities, interviews, and artwork sales all as a direct result of Instagram. While I am grateful for these connections and opportunities, I also acknowledge the downsides of social media, such as the priority on aesthetics over content, the reliance on likes for validation, and the superficiality of seeing everyone’s successes and not the failures and struggles that got them to that success. I’m learning to not get caught up in the fantasy of social media and keep a healthy balance of real life and virtual life.


5. What is the biggest challenge in being an artist today?

I think it can be difficult to feel valued as an artist, especially monetarily but also culturally. Making sure you are receiving enough time, energy, space, and money to function as an artist is so important, and you have to be very intentional in making these things happen. The first step (and a big hurdle for me personally) is internal – respecting yourself, being nice to yourself, valuing yourself as an artist.


6. Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?

In November I’ll have work in a retrospective of Bohemian Press, the printmaking club at the University of Minnesota. I was super active in BoPress during college and it provided a real sense of community and friendship while I was figuring out what it even meant to be an artist (not that I have that entirely figured out now!!).


7. What piece of advice has influenced you the most?

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific piece of advice right now, but I recently read Your Art Can Save Your Life by Beth Pickens and it was very affirming and motivational.


8. Ok, the most important question: Is a hot dog a taco or a sandwich? & why?

This question is breaking my brain, so for my sanity I abstain from picking a side. Get back to me in six months after I have properly mulled this over.


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