Artist interview: Christina Bothwell

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tumblr_n3n4guLS4i1qhy54ao1_1280Hi Christina thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview! First off can you tell us a bit about yourself?

 I live in rural Pennsylvania on an old farm house with my husband (Robert Bender, also a glass artist), my three children, Sophie age 13, and twins Ellis and Violet (aged almost ten), and a menagerie of ill behaved animals including a goose named Meanie Hairball Bender and a snake called Lucy.  I had all of my children in my forties, which still feels like a miraculous feat to me!  I like spending a lot of time outdoors in nature, usually by myself.  I am fortunate  to make a living from my sculpture, so I am able to work in the studio almost every day.  Most of my time though, is spent chauffeuring my children back and forth to their different sports practices. I eat a mostly vegan diet, and I love reading about health and nutrition, and filling my head with interesting factoids which I annoy people with. I also love reading memoirs, particularly by people who are healers, or who have survived near death experiences.  I pay a lot of attention to my dreams, and I sometimes interpret things I see in the natural world as I would a dream.  For instance, I get super excited when I see a bald eagle, or a bear.  Currently there is a pheasant living on the property, and the sight of him fills me with happiness.
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 Im very curious to know what inspires your work, there seems to be slightly ghostly/horror undertone? Can you tell me more about what inspires you?

Things seen in nature inspire me a great deal.. for instance, it is snowing right now, and as I type this there are nine bluejays in the tree outside of my window, and one cardinal.  And a red headed woodpecker.  All the colorful birds framed against the white snowy tree (the tree is also covered with flowers) is very magical.  If this image haunts me, I will probably have to use it in my work somehow.

   I can’t really explain why most people feel that my work is horrifying or scary. Maybe it is due to the influence of my earliest years… at any rate, if my work scares people, it is not my intention. I just try to make work based on ideas that excited me.
   I did have an eccentric childhood which probably has impacted my work- my mother was a hippy, and we lived in a tiny almost cloistered town that had been based on the beliefs of the mystic Emanuel Swedenborg… My parents were staunch atheists and unconventional thinkers, so I was bussed far away to a public school with no religious undertones.  My family did not believe in television.  We were too isolated for me to have playmates, so I spent most of my time drawing and reading, and imagining that I had invisible friends who were always with me.   I was quite small when the Vietnam war began, and our house was often filled with pot smoking teenagers who would sit at the kitchen table and play Bob Dylan on the guitar for hours, while nude models wandered sleepily through the house looking for a cigarette (my mom often held impromptu drawing classes in the living room).  Sometimes the young enlisted men brought their guns over to the house, and one time there was a bonfire on the yard as people burned their draft cards.   A girl brought her horse  into our living room, another time there was a pet monkey.  Eventually we were asked to leave the town as my parents were deemed a bad influence to the local youth.

  While this was going on, I also discovered I had a skewed perceptual system… I often sensed when people were about to die, and I sometimes had moments of feeling aligned with something much greater than just my own small beingness. My parents did not approve of me talking about such things, but I do think in hindsight  these experiences left an impression which eventually impacted my work.  My ongoing childhood spiritual experiences left me with a certainty that we are more than just our physical bodies, and portraying this is has been an underlying theme in my work.

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Roughly how long does each piece take to create?

The technical process behind my work is lengthy, sometimes even tedious…an average piece takes a few months, but sometimes it can take over a year to complete a piece, mostly depending on the size and complexity.

Your technique is so unique I have never seen work quite like it, How long did it take for you to find you artistic style and technique?

Thank you so much for saying that!  I am definitely a late bloomer… I was almost forty when I started working with glass… and I didn’t even discover ceramics until I was in my thirties.  I went to school to study painting, but I taught myself how to make sculpture outside of two short workshops in glass casting.  My style is the result of slowly relaxing into feeling okay with just being myself and allowing myself the space to make work that others might not like.

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Have you always been creative?

I think I was born with a creative orientation.  I think it definitely helped that growing up I was super isolated and didn’t have television.  This forced me to deal with my boredom and figure out how to entertain myself.  My mom is an artist, and her parents were painters, so I was always encouraged to draw and make things.  Once in a while my mother would take me out of school on some pretense, and whisk me to a new art supply store where I was allowed to buy materials without much restraint. Some of my earliest memories are of using bits of pastels my grandfather sent to me, and of my mother trying to explain how to draw in perspective.  I always loved textures and patterns, and as a small child I would sleep with fur collars under my pillow, and I would try to make fossils out of leaves and mud in my backyard.

What is your favorite part of creating a sculpture?

My favorite part of creating a sculpture is probably toward the end when the piece starts coming together.  Until the very end, my pieces are made in sections- first the faces, then the inner core (if the piece has one), then the bodies… all the pieces sit by themselves in my studio until at the very end when I assemble them together.   I love when I find some quirky bit of something at a flea market or garage sale that inspires me and gives me the idea for a piece… having an idea that excites me enough to make a piece is definitely the best..

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Where is your favorite place to work? A studio ? Outdoors?

I work in a little room in the house which was intended to be a sunroom… It is filled with lots of plants and cactuses and books, and all my weird little pieces of antique dolls and taxidermy and strange things people send me.  It gets crowded and messy, but it feels so good to walk in there, I just sigh with relief as soon as I enter the room.

Do you have anything special/new projects coming up in 2016?

I don’t really… I have a couple of solo shows next year in museums in Michigan, and another that is supposed to take place in Florida… but nothing I am specifically working toward… that would be nice… I am mostly engulfed with commissions which are a blessing, but also time consuming.

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Thank you so much Christina for sharing your stunning work and story with us!

To to see more of Christina work visit : https://www.instagram.com/christina.bothwell/

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