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INTERVIEW

anne symons

february 13, 2017

asheville, north carolina



Adele: Are you a cat or a dog?
Anne: Dog. I guess. I’m so bad at choosing stuff like that, which I think makes me a dog.

Ava: Describe your studio practice as a party.
Anne: It’s definitely a party during the day--
Ava: --a darty, love it!
Anne: Yes, a darty, if you will. I don’t know. When I’m planning on working in the studio for most of the day, I’m furious if anyone tries to hang out with me, so it’s really hard for me to answer this. Like, “What?! You want me to go to lunch on a Tuesday?!” I get mad about that a lot.
Adele: I do the exact same thing on Friday. “This is my first day in the studio--NO!”
Anne: It’s a lot of moving around doing different stuff, and starting and stopping different stuff.
Adele: So, like a bar crawl?
Anne: Maybe. Or like a progressive dinner? That’s not really a party though. But it’s definitely the opposite of a rave.
Ava: It’s kind of like the idea of being a host of a dinner party, you’re moving around trying to do all these tasks, trying to attend to all these different things.
Anne: Yeah, I definitely feel like I’m hosting, but my guests are out of my control. And I can’t satisfy any of them, and I’m worried they’re all about to leave the whole time. Like, they all wanna leave. That’s a really self-deprecating way of talking about my practice though. [laughing] The guests are out of my control… that’s kind of how I feel, yeah.



Ava: Describe your wardrobe and your relationship to your clothes.
Anne: My relationship to my clothes? Oh man. Y’all saw it all in my room.
Ava: I know, that’s why we’re asking about it.
Anne: I have so many clothes. I know there’s a connection for most artists between the way they style themselves and their work or whatever, but it seems especially relevant because I work with cloth. It’s one of my favorite things.
Ava: Have you always dressed the way you do, or did your style developed at a certain point in your life?
Anne: I’ve always had way too many clothes, because of my mom. She’s a huge shopper. I have two sisters, and she would constantly be like, “I just feel like you don’t have anything that fits you.” Like, constantly. She would always insist on improving my wardrobe, which always made me feel kinda weird, like I always had way too much stuff. I was really into Teen Vogue and I was pretty into fashion when I was in 8th grade and beginning of high school, but I didn’t feel like I could dress weird because of being young. Also, I couldn’t go thrifting because I couldn’t drive and my mom wouldn’t want to take me thrifting. I would be too embarrassed to ask her to take me. When I started thrifting on my own, that’s when everything went crazy, and why I have so much now. It’s so hard to stop. It stresses me out a lot. It’s one of the main sources of physical stress I have.



Ava: I’ve heard you talk about “processing” piles of clothes, which I think is interesting. Can you tell us about your system of organizing everything?
Anne: I’ll be choosing an outfit to wear and it’s just like in movies, I’m throwing stuff around and it all accumulates on the floor and it’ll just stay there until I clean it up, which will take a long time some days if I really let it pile up a lot. And then there’s never enough room to put it back, because I have so much.
Adele: Do you have an item of clothing that you’ve been obsessed with recently?
Anne: I’ve been wearing this necklace that Katherine [Toler] made. I’ll get something that seems really over-the-top, like that necklace, but pretty much after the first time I wear it I’m totally desensitized to how crazy it looks, and I wear it all the time.
Adele: Can you describe that necklace?
Anne: It’s this weird, inflexible grey pipe that reads, “conforms to UL STD 651 aboveground.” It seems like it’s for plumbing, I guess. And then there’s a piece of white cotton rope through it. But as for clothes… I really like wearing silk. I’ve been fixated on finding silk stuff at the thrift store. And wearing old lady artist clothes, like big linen shirts.
Adele: So comfortable, oh my god, yeah. Can’t wait for it to be summer, so that’s appropriate again.
Anne: Yeah. I want some really baggy linen overalls.
Adele: I just made myself a pair of linen pants! I didn’t have enough extra fabric to make them into overalls so I’m looking for the source material.
Anne: Oh yeah, I do have this pair of pants that’s huge. The waist is way too big, and so I just tie it with a shoelace. I really like wearing those. It’s so much fabric. I really want to make a lot of big pants.
Ava: Man, y’all are really making me want to get a sewing machine. The reason I haven’t gotten one is because I don’t have any room in my room, right now. That would stress me out so much, because I would want to use it all the time but the process of trying to make space for it and make a good work space in my room would be difficult.
Anne: Yeah, sewing on the floor kind of sucks. That’s how I started, I was in this crazy crouched position with one leg extended to reach the pedal.
Adele: Oh my god, a goblin sewing creature.
Anne: It was so unnecessary, I don’t know why I did that.





Adele: What is your idea of home and what’s your relationship to home?
Anne: I think it’s really related to feelings of security and comfort, which I get from being around people who I love and feel supported by, and also being surrounded by my stuff. A physical home to me is made through arranging things and feeling like it’s a reflection of some part of me. I would even decorate my rooms at Penland [School of Crafts].



Having a sense of belonging and community is something that I really crave and feel like I haven’t really found, but also, I don’t really know how to look for it, or how to build it. It depends a lot on staying in one place, which is something I don’t really feel sure of myself enough to do at this time of my life and I still feel like I’m figuring a lot out. Because I’ve been struggling to find meaningful community and a sense of belonging since graduating from college, I’ve been more focused on constructing those things within my actual house and domestic spaces and relationships, probably. Feeling at home is definitely related to North Carolina, because I’ve always lived here, and the south, and family history, and being close to that.
Ava: I know you’re still considering moving to Philadelphia, or a larger city. How do you feel about leaving the southern region?
Anne: If I do move to a city up north, I think I’ll really feel like I’m an outsider in some ways, and in some ways it seems like giving up.
Ava: Giving up on where you’re coming from or giving up on the southern region specifically?
Anne: Yeah, just this idea of culture being in big cities and being up north. Rather than building on and improving where you’re from, you go to a place that’s already culturally saturated. The south is culturally rich and there’s plenty of art stuff going on down here, and it seems like it would probably be more worthwhile and important to work on contributing to young women artist communities down here rather than trying to become part of an already vibrant scene somewhere else. It’s sort of similar thinking to gentrification--going somewhere you don’t necessarily belong.
Ava: I think about how important it is so spread creative wealth, I guess you could say, instead of having it all travel to these cities where everyone wants to be. It starves so many communities of potential creative growth or creative presence.
Anne: It’s also sort of a career strategy. I don’t want to move to New York right now because it’s harder to get noticed there.
Ava: Yeah, it seems easy to get lost.
Anne: But if you’re like, hey, I’m a person in Asheville doing this weird thing, people are gonna be like, “ooh I’m gonna write about that!” Not that anyone’s done that.
Ava: Here we are! We’re doing it!



Adele: Totally, that’s one of the reasons why I moved to Charlottesville. The art scene in LA was so intimidating. With my little degree and minimal portfolio, it seemed crazy to me to try to jump into the deep end there rather than go somewhere else and actually shine, or have room to shine and grow. Sometimes it feels like moving to the big city, whatever that is, can feel like selling out, in a way. Like, you’re selling out to achieve this fame and recognition in a place that’s already established as an art mecca, versus exactly what you’re saying, staying somewhere rural and providing access for communities that wouldn’t necessarily have access to a particular way of making or thinking.
Anne: It seems like in moving to these big cities like New York or Los Angeles, you’re deciding to do it in this one way that’s like, “I want to get represented by a gallery, and I want to do shows, and I want my picture to be taken for the Adidas x Urban Outfitters campaign and I wanna be friends with Petra Collins.” But I don’t know, they’re making a lot more money than me, so... but also paying a lot more money to live. I feel it’s really hard to be plugged into all that stuff and not be like, “should I be trying to do that?” Richmond seems like a nice-sized arts community. I think people definitely know stuff’s going on in Richmond. I’m just trying to avoid doing the thing where it’s like, “oh another person moving to wherever.” And I feel like people don’t say like, “Another person moving to Richmond. Great, everyone’s moving to Richmond.”
Ava: I was just talking about this with Adele in the car yesterday. All of these cities become full of transplants, ultimately--people who don’t have roots in that area, and no solid connection to that place. In a way it’s like the melting pot concept, but in another way, it makes these places lack a concrete culture that’s of the place. New York used to have that--I mean, it still does, but it just used to be so much more diverse, it seems.
Adele: And, now it’s so contingent upon wealth to live there. Sometimes I feel like work by people who are transplants or just bopping around becomes really hollow because they are only existing within this network of white cubes or galleries--
Ava: --or Instagram--
Adele: --yeah, or Instagram--and not necessarily engaging with their surroundings or history or place or community. But, those are also my particular ideas, of what I think is important in an art practice.
Anne: Yeah, I think you’re right.



Adele: What are the different dimensions of your practice and where do you find cohesion between them?
Anne: Yeah, that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I guess I used to think everything was so separate and was really insecure about it. In undergrad, in the art program at UNC, I was taught to start with an idea or a concept, and then make something about that. I took a class with Rachel Meginnes at Penland this fall, and it was a lot more focused on material studies and responding to and respecting the materials you’re drawn to and the kind of thing you want to do physically with those materials. That completely changed the way I thought about why I make different things. I feel like all of it is definitely some attempt to express or share some part of myself and stuff I like. There’s a really obviously personal element to all of my work.
Adele: What are the different mediums you use?
Anne: I started with photography, and that continues to be a part of my practice in some capacity. The past couple years I’ve mostly used my phone to take pictures. Photography is still where I feel the most comfortable, I think, probably because I went to school for it. Writing is another medium--in college I did fiction writing and wrote short stories, but in high school and throughout college and recently I’ve mostly been writing poems. And then textile stuff: sewing, weaving, and dying. There’s other stuff, too, that I think of more as play: collage, drawing, making little sculptures or jewelry, or making clothes. Stuff to wear. And then I also DJ.



Ava: Do you see DJing as separate from your visual practice?
Anne: Somewhat, because I’m just playing other people’s stuff that they’ve made, but I’m definitely interested in making music. If I ever did that, I think that would be pretty directly related to visual art stuff.
Adele: Is that where you could see a performance aspect coming into your textile practice, making music for your big installations?
Anne: If I made music it would be to perform it, mostly, and I think those performances would involve installations. Installation and costumes, maybe. I’ve never really planned that, at all. Ava and I talked about making a crankie last spring.
Adele: What is a crankie?
Anna: I know them as being really related to old-time music, and the performance of that music. Have you heard of Anna & Elizabeth? They’re this duo who perform old-time music and they have crankies, which are these big scrolls that go into a wooden box that has a crank in it. So you crank it, and the story moves along. It’s like a big panorama that you draw a story on. I learned about them because of Anna & Elizabeth. They’ll sing an old-time song, and the story of what the song is about will be on the crankie and they’ll crank it and it will illustrate what they’re singing about. They also have one that’s a big sheet with cut-outs and they’ll shine a flashlight behind different cut-outs depending on what they’re talking about. Their music is so amazing.
Adele: So, the crankie was a vision you had of combining music and textiles?
Anne: Yeah. It’s something I’ve thought about. It would be a cool way of combining writing and art and music, theoretically.
Adele: It could be thesis work. That would be awesome.
Ava: Yeah, I can’t believe we were gonna try to make an entire crankie in our last few weeks at Penland.
Anne: Yeah, just a casual side project. I’m always doing stuff like that.
Ava: I liked having that on the backburner, though.