Name: Krista Grecco
Current Location: Decatur, GA
Education: BFA Alfred University, MFA The Ohio State University
Preferred Art Medium(s): Porcelain
Children (ages and genders): Ukiah (Uki) 3 ¾ years old, male
Website address: kristagrecco.com
What is your background (where are you from, education, important details, where are you now, etc.)?
I am from Massachusetts but college, artist residencies, teaching and marriage have taken me to Florida, New York, California, Maine, Ohio and Georgia. I earned my BFA from NYSCC at Alfred University in 1994 and my MFA from The Ohio State University in 1998. I currently reside in Decatur, Georgia with my husband Clarke and my son Ukiah. Clarke and I teach at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, he teaches in the morning/afternoon and I teach in the late afternoon/evening.
Was there any part of your formal or non-formal training that prepared you for being a creative maker and mother simultaneously?
It’s all about the time management, I think teaching has really helped me sharpen that skill. After grad school, I began teaching part-time, applying for opportunities and showing a good bit. Life was really chaotic and unbalanced because I didn’t have a system for keeping deadlines in order. Things really got wild when I taught simultaneously at a university on the semester system and another on the quarter system, it was a real turning point. I began scheduling everything in a daily planer, this made it so much easier to designate time for teaching, grading and studio. Finally I could see at a glance what my days, weeks and months were going to look like.
After Uki was born and I went back to teaching full-time, the daily planner no longer worked for me. I needed to plan even further ahead so I could schedule the nanny for classes, meetings etc. I find it easier now to look at life in three month increments (since I teach on the quarter system). I print out blank calendar pages and list everything- from critique and grading days to exhibition and application deadlines. With all of my commitments organized, I can plan play time and family trips more easily!
Are there any women that you find to be an inspiration for you as an artist/mother?
I have only three close friends with children, they are earth mother types (my personal favorite). I look to them for advice on everything from cloth diapers to breastfeeding and health food. Among the three, Cary Lane (@bowlmaker.carylane) has been a real inspiration as an artist/mother. We met 23 years ago at an artist residency in California and have remained close. She started her family 19 years ago so I have had the chance to see how she nurtured two children, balanced multiple business ventures and modified her studio practice to grow her career. Cary has taught me that you really need to persist. You can’t get too hung up about the amount of art you create daily or weekly, it is more important that we find ways to sustain a long and rich career. Also, it is more productive to be flexible about where and when you create since it may be out of your control at times. You just have to keep at it and remain positive.
Can you talk about how you balance your role of artist and the role of mother? Did you take time off after the birth of your children? How did that work? What about childcare? How did you navigate making artwork?
I was terrified that being a mother meant that my art career would suffer. This was intensified ten years ago when an artist friend told me she was four months pregnant. She asked me to keep it a secret because she was told by another pregnant artist that gallerists look at you differently when they find out you are, or will be, a mother. She was afraid she would miss opportunities and be overlooked for exhibitions if I shared her news. That was all the proof I needed, it was settled- having a baby was going to ruin my career! Of course, now that I am almost four years into this artist/mother thing, I think it was a silly idea and I can’t believe we fell for it.
When Uki was born in January 2014 I was given eight weeks of maternity leave which I spent hugging and kissing my squishy little one. Clarke and I practiced attachment parenting so Uki was breastfed and very rarely separated from a parent when he was a newborn. I returned to teaching in March, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I knew I would have the summer off so the ten week academic quarter was somewhat tolerable. Pumping in between classes was difficult but doable, I was very thankful to have the support of my colleagues and department Chair. My mom was incredibly helpful and supportive in every way. She visited monthly and bit her tongue when I bossed her around (sorry mom!). Clarke was my rock. He cooked, cleaned and changed more diapers than me but more importantly he was a huge emotional and intellectual support. He continues to be such an involved parenting partner and a big help with my career. He takes care of Uki at gallery openings so I can socialize and he traveled with me to Switzerland so I could attend the opening of my solo exhibition and continue to breastfeed. When school is in session, we continue to share Uki care and have a wonderful nanny for 10 hours a week since our classes overlap. At this point, Clarke and I have gotten good at carving out time for art making and other projects during summer and holiday break. We find it easiest to stick to the same schedule we have when we are teaching, it keeps a nice rhythm throughout the year.
Art making after Uki was born? Hah! That time is such a blur- I have no recollection of being in the studio during those first months! Now that my life schedule is comfortable and clearly defined and my son is willing (sometimes) to follow some directions, I have begun merging some of our mommy time with studio time. We started “working” together two weeks ago, it is now our daily ritual. I recently doubled the size of my studio and created an area for him to do whatever he wants. He cleans my tools, cuts and stamps the clay and really loves the Shop Vac! He does need to be monitored so I work on complicated sculptures when I am alone. I focus on making my Candy Bugs since they are press molded and repetitive. We spent almost two hours in the studio yesterday- success!
To my surprise, having a child hasn’t damaged my career, it has just made me more motivated to be successful. I want my son to be proud of me so I do what it takes to get everything done. I stay up late, work through naps and take Uki on errands. It can be tiring and frustrating when I have a big deadline but most of the time it works well for me.
Your earlier work was influenced by nostalgia and objects that could represent this idea. Does nostalgia still interest you and shape your work? How has your connection to this idea changed since becoming a mother?
Nostalgia is still important to me, it represents the sweet and the sour- two emotions vying for power. I love to work with opposite emotions, colors………
I think I am sourcing imagery differently now. I no longer look at toys and cartoons for influence, I look more closely at the actual human and animal form. My color palate is still complex but I like to work with layers of sooty slip and terra sigillata now. I am no longer interested in preserving the pristine white of the porcelain.
It’s funny, I am now surrounded by the child-like imagery that influenced me for most of my career but I reject it now. Maybe its maturity, maybe its motherhood or both. I think the old work was less emotional- more blissful. I was alluding to the idea of emotion. I don’t think I was really in touch with my own emotions so the connection was lost. I am in touch with deeper feelings now, I have felt intense love, terrifying fear and deep sadness.
You have a forthcoming article in Ceramics Art and Perception that deals with changes in your studio practice since having a child. What are some of the major changes you made? Were they conscious changes or determined by circumstance? How has this altered your artwork?
Yes I do! The article (coming out toward the end of the year) details the shifts in my studio practice since becoming a mother. I think every change has been conscious, each one an attempt to get the most out of my extremely tight schedule.
My studio practice changed in late 2014 when I was invited to participate in a ceramic biennial that included a solo exhibition and two hand building demonstrations in Geneva, Switzerland. I had 10 months to make and ship 14 sculptures so I needed to re-structure how I worked with, and thought about ceramics. I took a more fluid approach to working and spent more time contemplating works in progress and experimenting. Wet work stayed on the shelves longer, allowing the opportunity to alter and add more layers to the concept. There were times when I was working on five sculptures at a time, each at a different stage of completion. I realized that working with multiple, partially finished sculptures at once enabled me to create stronger visual and color connections- it helped to unify the entire show.
You will have to wait for the article for more details!
Your work deals with the figure and animal imagery. I think of motherhood as spending much time looking at another human being. Has your relationship to the figure changed since the birth of you children? Has motherhood changed your understanding of emotion?
When Uki was born, the first thing I thought was that he looked like my sculptures! His features and mannerisms were very familiar to me. My first figurative works had the look of baby/child. I wasn’t trying to comment on “child” back then, I was just interested in “child-like”.
I agree that a lot of time is spent looking at another human but I am glad you brought up the emotional aspect since that resonates so much with me. I feel emotions (especially empathy) more deeply now- I really didn’t expect that! My representation of the figure (gesture, texture, surface and color) is effected as a result. I am excited to see how my work evolves in the next few years.
What is next in your work? Anything we ought to be on the look out for in the near future?
I want to keep exploring more intense emotions. I created two walking figures (Hiker and Wishful Thinker) for a recent two-person exhibition and really liked the emotion that they captured. They are strong but sad, independent but lonely. Strength on its own doesn’t appeal to me, there must be a weakness present to play off of it.
I am gearing up for a show with Mark Knott called Flora+Fauna at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. You can expect to see walking figures (a group of hikers I think), lonely but lovely animal busts and Candy Bugs scattering across the wall!
Are there any projects, hobbies, or activities (ex. Running, knitting, tea connoisseur, arts organizations, volunteering, etc.) outside of your artistic practice that you feel passionately about? What are they? Do you find them feeding your practice? If so how?
We love to travel and hike, Uki is a real adventure boy! The three of us recently had a great trip to Pt. Reyes and Mendocino California. Clarke and I hiked many miles with Uki on our backs. I prefer laid back vacations full of woods and walking. I want a quiet environment where I can move at my own pace. I also like to visit cities for the architecture and people but I don’t care to be rushed or crowded. I don’t know if travel directly feeds my art practice but I know it feeds my soul.
Anything else we should know?
I think I have said it all…perhaps too much?
Finally just for fun. If you were to make a playlist today what would be your top 5 favorite songs?
Uki and I listen to two stations on Pandora- The Smiths and De La Soul (keeping me in a perpetual state of nostalgia I guess).
Sometimes I have to skip a song due to the language! I never thought I would be happy to hear the edited version of a rap song- how times have changed…