As VMFA celebrates 75 years of Fellowship history, RVA Mag got the chance
As VMFA celebrates 75 years of Fellowship history, RVA Mag got the chance to sit down with Fiona Ross, who was awarded the professional fellowship in 2005 about the award, her work and teaching at the University of Richmond.
The museum is showcasing Ross’s work along with two other past recipients of the fellowship award from now until July 26 at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Va. It’s a traveling exhibit and part of the VMFA’s statewide program that shares exhibitions and programming with partner organizations throughout the Virginia.
– Self-Portrait in Sap Green, #15, Acrylic on Yupo, 2012, 24 x 18″, Courtesy of the artist and Page Bond Gallery –
Ross did a self-portrait series during her artist’s residency in Ireland. She says the series was born out of her desire to understand the amount of space her own body took up.
“Drawing for me explored that idea of presence, the way that presence can be felt both inside and outside the body,” Ross said. “So the lines, to me, have a reaching out quality as well as a reaching in quality.”
Ross said the fellowship is a huge honor for any artist and the award made a significant difference for her. The fellowship allowed her to improve her studio and make more frequent trips to New York museums and gallery openings. She used the money to pay for part of her residency in Ireland, and it allowed her to cut in half the number of classes she taught.
“That really helped me in terms of studio time,” she said. “And I will always be grateful for that gift of time.”
Ross is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond. She values the access to technology the university provides and the ability to interact with students. “I’m so inspired by their fearlessness,” she said. “They are so fresh to the idea of making art that anything is possible.”
Teaching at the university is a constant learning experience for Ross.
“You’re always learning from a community of established artists, but you’re also learning from students when they try a color combination or they try a texture combination,” she said. “It’s exciting to be part of that conversation with so many different people.”
– Complement of Closure #5 is 23 x 35″, Acrylic on Yupo, 2014, Courtesy of the artist and Page Bond Gallery-
Ross uses yupo, which is a polypropylene paper. It is remarkable for its smooth surface. The paper used in the Complement of Closure series is translucent, so she layers paintings to give the pieces a three-dimensional look. “When they’re hanging up, they look like you could reach into them almost,” she said.
Ross believes the people interested in her work are attentive to detail and form. They are interested in “how things come together or break apart.”
“I think they’d be people who pay attention to minutia,” she said. Ross added they’re most likely to slow down and watch how one color bleeds into another or may focus on the ways lines can be traced.
– Dislocation of a More Complete Pattern #6, 23 x 35″, Acrylic on Yupo, 2014, Courtesy of the artist and Page Bond Gallery –
Ross says her art is about “volumetric objects that are rendered in an abstract way with very fine lines.” She said she is thinking about the way air flows through things and how lines can represent the passage of time.
“I’m really interested in how one thing can become another,” she said. Ross made the Dislocation of a More Complete Pattern series by placing drops of water along a grid and then filling them with a dot of paint.
When prompted for advice for aspiring artists, Ross relayed something said to her when she was just starting out: “Go to your studio every day, even when you’re feeling uninspired.”
For Ross, that means going in “just to sweep it, wash the windows or move a table from here to there.”
She said doing something like an inventory of supplies can start a chain reaction.
“All of a sudden you find yourself messing around with something,” she said. “You’re making marks and all of a sudden you see, ‘well that’s a cool thing’ and then you start drawing and you’re hooked into your work again.
Ross said this works because it forces you to start paying attention to something in the space. So even if what you’re making isn’t good at first, “there’s a transformative power in paying attention to things that will spill over into the artwork and make it something worth looking at.”
Besides, she says “Your favorite project is always the one you’re working on right now. That’s always what makes your eyes shoot up in the morning.”
Ross currently has a piece in the Radius 250 show at Art Space on East 4th Street.