Red wine and power tools

Artist Amy Schissel re­veals the in­gre­di­ents for a per­fect day, and what Princess Leia and Cyndi Lau­per have in com­mon

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY -

1. What was on your bed­room walls when you were a kid?

My mom was a macrame … I hate to use the word freak, so let’s use macrame artist. She and her friends used to macrame a lot. My brother and I shared a room when we were kids — we’re the same age — so we had th­ese big, huge green macrame frogs and owls on our walls. We also had some Star Wars posters. 2. If you weren’t a vis­ual artist, what do you think your creative out­let would be?

Be­fore I was an artist, I was ac­tu­ally go­ing to uni­ver­sity for tenor sax­o­phone, at Car­leton Uni­ver­sity, so I think I’d be a jazz mu­si­cian. 3. Who was your girl­hood idol?

That’s a toss-up be­tween Princess Leia and Cyndi Lau­per. I was Cyndi Lau­per twice at Hal­loween, and Princess Leia three times. They were my idols. What was it about them?

With Princess Leia it was the buns. And Cyndi Lau­per, I used to like her miniskirts and I used to dress like that as a kid. 4. What makes you squirm?

Mag­gots, ab­so­lutely. I had been a server for about seven years on and off through­out uni­ver­sity, and there was this garbage strike in Ottawa. My job was to take the garbage from the curb, that the garbage­men didn’t pick up, and bring it back into the restau­rant so we could store it un­til the strike was over. It was crawl­ing with mag­gots, and the bag burst and they were all over me, all over my shoes, in my shoes. I threw up. It was dis­gust­ing. 5. What three words de­scribe how you feel when you paint?

I don’t know if I feel an emo­tion. It’s more a sense of fo­cus, or a tran­sient feel­ing of hav­ing one foot on the earth and one foot within the realm of the imag­i­na­tive world. So I’d say tran­sient, fo­cused and sort of a peace­ful feel­ing. 6. If you could have 100 pounds of any­thing, what would you choose and why?

I did some re­search for this one. At first it was go­ing to be gold, but then I thought, “ There’s got to be some­thing more ex­pen­sive than gold.” So then it was anti-hy­dro­gen. For an ounce of anti-hy­dro­gen, you would get two-thou­sand tril­lion dol­lars. So I’d go for that, be­cause then I could use the money for world peace. 7. If you could go back and re-live any one day of your life, which would you choose and why?

I don’t have one sig­nif­i­cant day that stands out, but I re­ally like spending time with my fam­ily — my broth­ers and sis­ters. So any time I’m with them — hol­i­days. Yes­ter­day was a pretty good day. I spent the day with my dad. We built the frames and the stretch­ers for the can­vasses that are go­ing in the show. We drank wine and used power tools … it was a good day. 8. What two peo­ple, liv­ing or dead, would you like to have as seat­mates on an ex­tremely long train trip?

The artist Eva Hesse, for one. She died at the age of 33. She was a very prom­i­nent fig­ure in fem­i­nism. She was a sculp­tor and was very in­ter­ested in the ab­sur­dity in ev­ery­thing. She kept a jour­nal, but there hasn’t been a lot pub­lished about what she kept in her jour­nal, so I’d like to pick her brain on that.

An­other per­son who re­ally in­ter­ests me is Anne Frank. As a kid I read The Di­ary of Anne Frank about four times. I think she’s re­ally in­spir­ing, and I’d like to ask her ques­tions about how you get through liv­ing in an at­tic for two years. I think she has a great hu­man spirit, so I would like to talk to her for a long time. 9. If you could spend a day in­side the story or set­ting of any paint­ing, song, movie or book, what would you choose and why?

Star Wars. I want to wear the buns, I want to have a light sabre and I want to learn to move things with my hands. You can’t move things with your hands?

You know — with my Jedi pow­ers. 10. What do you wish you could get into the habit of do­ing?

I wish I could get into the habit of be­ing organized. I’m ex­tremely spon­ta­neous — I think too spon­ta­neous. I don’t re­ally have a set sched­ule; I just do things as they hap­pen or as they come about. I think I would re­ally like to be more organized. I would like to get into the habit of wak­ing up and sched­ul­ing my day. 11. What have you never done that you’d like to try some day?

The rodeo. I grew up on a farm in Al­berta, and my dad ev­ery year would go in the Cal­gary Stam­pede. I was six months to the age where I could start to com­pete at the Cal­gary Stam­pede or join the 4-H club, and we moved be­cause my dad wanted to go to school. 12. What use­less skill(s) do you pos­sess?

I can do the splits. Do you use that much th­ese days?

No, but I can do it. I prac­tised from when I was seven un­til I could do it, and I can still do it for some rea­son, al­though I have not much flex­i­bil­ity any other way. 13. What do you think your friends would say is your most an­noy­ing trait?

I’m a biter. I get re­ally ex­cited and some­times I’ll bite some­body. I se­ri­ously bite peo­ple, and then they get re­ally mad. Like you’ll just grab a friend’s arm and bite it?

Yeah, yeah. Friends, though. Peo­ple that I’m close to. Wow. I might in­clude that in use­less skills. 14. What is the odd­est thing you’ve heard some­one say about your work?

I think it’s pretty odd that ap­par­ently my work looks like a fu­tur­is­tic Pac-Man game. Who said that?

A stu­dent I was TA-ing in my mas­ter’s pro­gram. 15. What is your guilty plea­sure?

Oreos. I like lick­ing the cen­tres. 16. What up­sets you more than it should?

I’m a bi­cy­clist. I bi­cy­cle ev­ery­where, and what up­sets me ev­ery time is driv­ers who are not con­sid­er­ate of those who pre­fer to bike. I get splashed, I’ve been hit with car doors. Peo­ple don’t re­ally watch where they’re go­ing a lot of the time. Ev­ery time I see that hap­pen­ing, I get re­ally an­gry, even if it’s not hap­pen­ing to me. 17. What three songs should every­one have on their iPods?

Any song by Neil Young. Pick one.

I like The Nee­dle and the Dam­age Done. And Madonna’s Ma­te­rial Girl, and Michael Jack­son’s Wanna Be Startin’ Some­thin’. 18. What emo­tion(s) do you want your art to elicit from view­ers?

I would like it to elicit a de-cen­tred­ness, for one. I think some of the work is fun, so a feel­ing of, not child­ish­ness, but a feel­ing of joy, maybe. On the flip side, a se­ri­ous, al­most ex­is­ten­tial­ist ques­tion­ing feel­ing. 19. What are the three great­est places you’ve been to?

Ab­so­lutely the first one is Visby, Swe­den. I just did a sum­mer res­i­dency there. It’s an old Hanseatic town, a 12th-cen­tury town, and the cas­tle walls are still in­tact, and are around this vil­lage that was built in the 1200s. It’s a whole other world — it’s com­pletely me­dieval.

Sec­ond, a friend of mine lives in Italy, on a fam­ily vine­yard in Pied­mont. I went to visit there and lived in a cas­tle that over­looks rolling hills of vine­yards. It was beau­ti­ful.

And the third place is prob­a­bly my bed­room. It’s where I spend most of my time, I think. 20. Who or what will be the death of you, and what would you like your head­stone to read?

I eat a lot of sal­mon, so I think I’ll die of mer­cury poi­son­ing. Or some­thing re­lated to my liver. The liver one would be al­co­hol­re­lated?

I’m not say­ing that. That could be left up to the imaginatio­n. And I think my head­stone would read … “She drank too much”?

No. Some­thing like “Right on.”


Artist Amy Schissel perches in front of one of her can­vases, this one en­ti­tled ‘Red’ from the RGB se­ries at the Cube Gallery in Ot­tawa. Works by Schissel, as well as those of Rus­sell Yuristy, will be on ex­hi­bit at Cube Gallery, 1285 Welling­ton St. W.,...

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