The solo exhibition Reflections in James Howe Gallery at Kean University features Anna Shukeylo’s latest body of work from 2022- 2023. Shukeylo has always combined in her artwork private, autobiographical moments inter-spliced with imagined elements. Since becoming a mother, she has documented and deeply explored in her paintings and drawings the chaotic routine of early parenthood, including her attempts to balance her art career and the day-to-day rigors of two toddlers.
Tell me more about the body of work in Reflections, your show at Kean.
My work has always been focused on private, autobiographical moments inter-spliced with imagined elements. The chaotic routine of early parenthood inspires this body of work, my attempts to balance my career as an artist with motherhood, and the day-to-day rigors of two toddlers. I’m used to having more control over my work, but since my life is very fluid due to the unpredictability of kids, I let go in my work too to see what magic can happen. Everything from the manner of painting and process has changed, and the work is mostly experimental. This work also explores new territory for me as an artist, as much of the work represents collaborating with my three-year-old daughter and her evolving ability to draw. I work on top of her freestyle creations, juxtaposing my traditional drawing style with the freedom of her innocent and explorative crayon strokes. I love her spirit and uninhibited choice of color. Since I worked on top of that, my painting has become looser, and my color choices are much more spontaneous and bolder. In addition to these collaborations, this body of work reflects the chaotic nature of day-to-day parenthood, using a combination of found materials and fabric collage to represent the unpredictable mélange of activities, toys, and discovery.
You say that becoming a mother has profoundly changed your painting—subject, scale, gesture, and materials. Can you elaborate on that and give us a few examples from the show?
I think my perception of time has changed and, with it, my approach to art making. The scale has varied due to the limited stretches of time I have to make my work. I’ve been painting small pieces on wooden toy blocks, but, as time permits – specifically the brief intervals where my kids’ naps align – I’ve also begun working on larger scale work when I could sneak outside to the porch in the summer months. This is where my toddler approached a few pieces and helped herself to some painting. I opted to leave her contributions and found ways to integrate into the work. As a result, my brushstrokes have become looser, and my painting has become a lot more immediate.
Let’s closely examine one painting in the show—what is the genesis? Process? And the idea behind it? Why did you pick this one?
One of my favorite pieces in the show is Sentiment 4. My three-year-old daughter copies everything I do, so when she saw a blank canvas and wet pallet set up, she was drawn to it like a magnet. Despite my initial instinct to stop her, my curiosity quickly took over as I began to see the magic start happening on the surface. Her innocent and pure mark-making and color choices were deliberate, abstract, and raw. I later added my part, an image of her painting the work. I again caught myself by surprise, realizing how marks on the canvas loosened up my painting. It feels as though I am having a conversation with her work.
What is happening in your studio these days?
For the first time in 10 years, I have begun working on larger pieces in my new home studio. Revisiting this scale has been liberating, especially as I integrate more recent methods and materials, like the integration of fabric collage with painting. I also have many more pieces in progress at any given time as I take advantage of inspiration and more sporadic work sessions. Beyond all that, there’s a lot of childproofing, as I’ve come to expect impromptu visits.
About the artist: Anna Shukeylo (b. St. Petersburg, Russia) is an artist working and living in the New York Metropolitan area. She graduated from Pratt Institute with her MFA in Painting and from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with a BFA/Certificate in Painting. Her work has been exhibited throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, and internationally.
September 6, 2023, to November 6, 2023
Anna Shukeylo (b. St. Petersburg, Russia) is an artist, curator and educator working in New Jersey and New York. Her work has been exhibited throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana and with most recent shows at Transmitter New York, Zephyr and Maize, Auxier Kline, Novado Gallery, and the Painting Center in 2020 and 2021. She has also curated numerous shows including an invitational yearly show at Kean University’s James Howe gallery.