Interview: Rhonda Massel Donovan
Luca Curci talks with Rhonda Massel Donovan during Venice International Art Fair 2021 and BODIES+CITIES SKIN, first appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Through interpretations of drawing and painting, I use symbols to mentally trace human interaction. This mapping builds physicality of textures to depict the transition from joyous to disastrous and back again. Although, moments of every day life can be seemingly unrelated or benign, viduality of these daily experiences with positive or negative outcomes. When damage occurs, reassembly is required of the cut, torn, or broken in unique ways, and as an extension of the unique people involved. It is of particular interest to me how these interactions are fueled by societal issues of racial, religious, or gender inequalities. Smaller works might focus on a single moment, while larger works may deal with history repeating itself. In this way, shifts in scale provide another means for materials to communicate.
Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Rhonda Massel Donovan – My artworks tell stories about interactions between different people, which produce different outcomes. Sometimes there is joy or despair, but usually it is both. By including these together, I attempt to communicate balance, hope, and the possibility to repair something damaged.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint?
RMD – I think about the people in the storie, the way they might have felt, what they might have thought, and how my experiences might relate to theirs. Even if we have no shared experiences, there’s a reason why their story spoke to me and that connection keeps me working.
LC – Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
RMD – I take lots of photos, but mostly I keep many artworks going at the same time. They will talk to each other, to me, and sometimes they force me to take a break until the next step is revealed.
LC – What is your creative process like?
RMD – Each artwork starts with unintentional marks, or a found fabric, or wood. The surface quality, color, size, or shape will remind me of a story I’ve saved in an ongoing journal. From there the additive or subtractive methods fill in the details, until the story is finished. Based on the starting point with accidental outcomes in combination with my intentional marks, the artworks assert themselves as much as being guided by my hand.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
RMD – Yes, they’re all maps and they’re all bodies abstracted to trace thought or movement, and to mark points in time where those movements overlap. I use abstraction to allow texture, color, and shape to create an opening for my viewers to enter. By leaving details as an indefinite quality, I allow everyone to have a unique experience and maybe remember a story of their own.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
RMD – In many ways it is very difficult. For example, during the Renaissance artists knew what it meant to make art. They knew what to paint or sculpt, and they knew their audience. Today we make what we know is right for us as artists, and we wait for our audience to find us. On the other hand, being online makes it possible for me to speak with you today while we’re an ocean apart. That helps tremendously; but does require keeping up with the ever-changing technology.
LC – What is the message linked to the artwork you have shown in this exhibition?
RMD – Both of these paintings show time and distance, and deal with ideas about historic traditions functioning in contemporary life. The biggest difference between them is their vantage points. “On the Back #5” looks at what is far away, but the viewer’s vision is obscured by the back side of a tattered drape. “Time is a Place I Can Make, #1” tries to locate invisible, and maybe imaginary, points on a map to an exalted place, while organic forms block the way.
LC – How is it connected to the theme of the entire festival?
RMD – Bodies and Space are the abstracted forms I use to map stories and how they relate to my memories. Sometimes the figure can be detected, sometimes the movement of the body is evident, and sometimes the painted surfaces only remind us of the flesh that holds us together.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
RMD – Yes, and I am very excited about how well my ideas pair with this theme.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
RMD – I greatly appreciate the effort it took to overcome the current COVID restrictions, and the success of putting a physical event together. It is time for us to find a new normal, so we can experience art in person again.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
RMD – To say yes is not enough. The expertise and diligence has been beyond impressive, and I am grateful to all for making my participation possible.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
RMD – It’s very relevant in modern society to give all creative fields equal importance, and your group is helping artists to find our audience, show our work, and hopefully also find support.