Names: Molly McIntyre & Sarah Pedry Obuchowski
Current Residence: Molly: Brooklyn, New York Sarah: Longmont, CO
Country of Origin: M+S: USA
Describe yourself and your work:
M: Curious, personal, lover of labor, not taking myself too seriously, emotionally-driven, visual.
S: A woman, a mother, a wannabe naturalist. My work focuses on the intersections of nature and humans. I feel most comfortable within the order of the natural world, and through my work am constantly in search of ways to reconnect the human experience to its proper place in the wild.
How did you get started?
M: My mom is an artist, and her whole family is pretty artsy in one way or another, so there were always art supplies around and drawing was a way to spend time that was encouraged. I think she taught me to notice details and to work hard – and also to be a bit self-critical, for better or worse.
S: I found my passion for drawing and painting at a very young age, and my mom had the foresight to get me into lessons with a local artist to feed that passion. I have degrees from two art schools (KCAI and MECA), which may not have been sound financial decisions, but did give me a good foundation for thinking through ideas and exploring materials. I also worked at The Met in NYC, and wandering those halls may have been my best education of all.
What piece of work best represents you and why?
M: A series of cut-outs I made in 2005 or 2006, called “We Can Do Whatever We Want (Right Now)”, depicting school girls lounging about and interacting with each other, both inviting and escaping from the gaze of the viewer, seems to embody a lot of the themes I come back to over and over again – coming of age, bodies, gender (specifically female gender), and relationships, both between people in the cut-outs and between the cut-outs and the viewer.S: One of the first paintings I did after my son was born is of antelope running across the plains of Wyoming, and a forest fire in the distance. It feels sort of quiet and loud at the same time. Maybe because as I answer these questions we are driving through that very landscape to the town where I was born, but something about that painting feels very much like me.
How does material influence your designs?
M: A lot! I like rules and structure, and cut paper has a lot of inherent limitations (and possibilities). Everything needs to connect, there’s no shading or variation in the surface, and also it lends itself to focusing on lines and negative space. There are so many decisions made for me that it frees up my brain to focus on a limited range of options, which is helpful for me in feeling confident to move forward. I can easily get decision-fatigue, so I like to narrow things down.
S: It depends on the work I am making, but traditionally it influences me a lot. Right now I am painting with gouache, which I love for it’s ability to work in small details and layers.
What have you learned through making that has surprised you?
M: That I am a hard worker, and that I am confident in my skills. A lot of times in life I feel lazy and unsure of myself, but in the realm of art-making, though there is certainly a lot of self-doubt that comes up all the time, there is also a level of competence that I feel sure of and it’s a good feeling.
S: Patience. There was a time when I only worked fast and with immediacy. There was some merit in that, but there came a point when I decide that everything needed to slow down. That’s when I first started choosing projects that would force me to work slowly, like felting. Now it’s about painting with tiny details. I actually feel like learning patience through my work translated into the rest of my life as well
Describe the setting of where one of your designs will be in the year 2050
M: Well, hopefully I will be 70 years old then, which seems like a good age to have a retrospective show ;).
S: Well, I was going to say that I would have a children’s book published. But now that Molly points out our age, I guess yeah a huge retrospective!
Where do you go to get inspired?
M: The studio, on a walk, a coffee shop, hanging out with friends, to sleep.
S: Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in Rocky Mountain National Park. Whether I’m alone and able to climb up to the beautiful alpine regions, or with the kids and only able to travel a few hundred feet, I always return inspired and with a new store of visual ideas to draw from.
What is it like when you collaborate with other artists?
M: It varies. I don’t collaborate a lot in the actual physical work, but I really like collaborating in terms of coming up with show ideas, or other kinds of project ideas!
S: Collaboration is becoming more important to me lately. I used to believe in the artist who works in total isolation, but now that seems like kind of silly notion. It’s more about the exchange and growing of ideas than sharing in the physical making of the work, but that emotional and verbal exchange is totally necessary for me.
How do you balance being an artist and being an entrepreneur?
M: One of my goals for the next few years is to figure out a way to make a living through making stuff – and that’s something Sarah and I talk about a lot. I’m really glad to have her as a buddy in trying to figure it out! When we started Gather Made it was more as a “business” (without officially becoming one), and slowly it morphed into being an Artist Collective, which feels like a more natural fit. In The Birthday Book it says I am supposed to be a great salesman, and I can see that part of my personality, but it’s hard for me to merge that with the more introverted art making part of myself. I do have an online shop, and share art on Instagram and Facebook. I would love to work with someone, like an agent or a gallery rep, who would help take care of some of the business end of things.
S: Trying to be an entrepreneur is a relatively new part of this for me, but I actually kind of enjoy it. I don’t love doing the books, but it does help me to feel organized and like I can present myself as a professional. It helps me to feel like I have some control over my future in the art world. That said, it would be fun to just make work and have a magical fairy put money in my account.
What is your process for coming up with new work?
M: Usually have a deadline or a project – like our upcoming show at Madelife, or every year I make a calendar. It’s hard for me to feel as inspired to make stuff if I don’t have a deadline and a place to share it once it’s done. Once the deadline is in place, there’s that obligation that can help me push past some of the self-doubt of whether what I’m making is pointless.
S: I always have a lot of random ideas and sources related to nature, but for me the key is making a decision on what to focus on and then really shaping that idea into something with enough depth and structure to present as an image. Working with Molly has been a great help with that; we talk through ideas and she helps me expand my thinking about them, as well as to find a focus for specific projects and products to present the work.
Why do you believe art has value?
M: Well, I do struggle with worrying that the art I’m making is pointless, but, one thing I try to remember is how delighted I feel when someone else creates something. When I see people who really value creativity in a way that is not about ego but just about enjoying the world and interpreting things and expressing themselves, I feel happy, I feel more human, I feel excited.
S: I could say a lot about this actually, about art’s importance in history, about it’s ability to connect people to ideas and places they couldn’t otherwise reach. But, at this moment I am thinking a lot about how having kids has changed my relationship to art. Now I see it not just on this high level, but also as an amazing tool that helps kids understand the world around them, and I think that might be the best thing about it. I love that it has this practical use in the world and not just as decoration or points of theoretical discussion.
What is playing on your stereo?
M: On my headphones: the Soundcloud app, playing Sharon Van Etten, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Sinead O’Connor, and Kate Bush. Except half of it is covers and remixes, because I am cheap/don’t understand technology, and so I listen to Soundcloud which I think is mostly random people uploading remixes of things? So I heard like 20 remixes of the same Kate Bush song…but that’s fine.
What’s in your cup in the mornings?
M: Coffee. And water, and orange juice (on an ideal day).
S: So much coffee it’s kind of gross.
Who inspires you most right now?
M: I recently went to a talk by the painter Melissa Staiger, and I was really inspired by her devotion to shapes and color, and her curiosity about energy and healing. The artist and gallery runner Lindsay Metivier, and my friend Wendi Wing, who introduced me to Lindsay, both inspire me with their devotion to creativity and their photography. Sarah’s paintings and her approach to life inspire me! Lately I’m feeling really interested in people who have figured out, or are interested in figuring out, how to be happy in life – not because they get everything they want, but because they appreciate things. I think that our world is so focused on consumption and wanting more and hating ourselves, that it’s really hard to learn how to be happy. But I think we can maybe train ourselves. Not to be happy all the time – I guess maybe just to be happy when we can be, be sad when we can be, to feel our feelings and be responsive and not get stuck in a rut.
S: At the moment my grandma, Jean. She recently passed away, and the series showing is largely built around her. She was an artist who lived alone in the mountains for many years. She collected beautiful things from all over the world, and her cabin was like stepping into a magical world filled with pattern, color, and art. Her ancestors came west in a wagon and were among the early settlers in Wyoming, and she embodied that same spirit of adventure in they way she lived her life. She taught me to love the woods, listen for the little things, and appreciate my environment as a part of who I am rather than just something that surrounded me.
What’s the best thing about your studio/workspace/workshop?
M: I’m currently a studio resident at Brooklyn Art Space, and it’s the first time in New York that I’ve had a studio space outside of my apartment – that’s the best thing about it, that it’s not in my house! It’s also a really awesome old building, with big wide steps and windows and just a nice feel to it. It’s an open studio (there are private studios as well) and at first that was hard to adjust to, but now I just listen to my headphones with 25 remixes of the Kate Bush song and it’s fine. Actually, it’s nice, because it’s a little less lonely than a private studio – I like being able to look over and see another studiomate working on something, and be reminded that I’m not the only weirdo making potentially pointless art at 9 am on a beautiful Sunday morning.
S: Big windows that make me feel like I’m outside while I’m working. I also love that it’s in the heart of our home so I can hear my family in the other room, or see them playing outside while I work. At this moment in my life it’s important to me to feel like I can integrate my studio with the rest of my life so that it all feels connected.
How do you stay motivated to create?
M: When I don’t do it for a while I get depressed and then I’m like, I should try and make something and then I’ll feel less depressed. And, connections with other people who make stuff, that’s really motivating too.
S: It’s different things at different times. Right now I’ve got several projects I’m excited about, so just getting those ideas down on paper are motivating. But there are definitely times when motivation is something I have to make for myself in the form of an assignment that just keeps my hands moving. It’s something I have to constantly work at as life and the circumstances around my making change.
What’s the best part about being an artist?
M: Getting to feel a little bit outside of some of the normal adult things – feeling like my weirdness has a context in which it makes sense.
S: That I always have a place to put my feelings and ideas. Whatever I need to express–joy, excitement, indignation, sadness–I have a place to put that. For me language is never adequate for those kinds of things, and so art is my way of articulating that. Even when it’s something no one else will ever see.