There are few things that turn my crank more than strong, innovative artists and powerful, adventurous women. Together the two elements pack a heck of a wallop. This weeks wallop: the second in a series of artist profiles by dynamo artist-entrepreneur extraordinaire Zoe Pawlak, this time the focus on an artist both local to Vancouver and in attendance at Art Toronto 2010, Fiona Ackerman.
I have the great pleasure of sharing my studio with one of the hardest working ladies in Vancouver. Fiona Ackerman’s got a sense of great humor, likes good beer and knows what she’s talking about when it comes to painting. She is the perfect studio mate and is quickly becoming my fastest-made friend.
Fiona Ackerman is a rising star in the Vancouver art scene. Her two paintings in The Cheaper Show were bought up by the first two people in line and this fall she is enjoying the success of a second show at the Diane Farris Gallery with painters Will Murray and Nick Lepard. Parts Gallery is currently showing her work in Toronto and taking her to Art Toronto for the first time.
Zoe Pawlak: You said that showing at Art Toronto was like a 5 year goal for you and now it is happening for the first time this year. You are making the trek out from Vancouver to attend. With a job, a toddler and an active studio practice here at home in Vancouver, why is it of such importance to be in Toronto for the show?
Fiona Ackerman: I miss a lot of events and opportunities to chat with people because I’m juggling such a chaotic life at the moment. This will be my first chance to really just soak it in in some time, and I’ve been wanting to go for a few years. Having Parts Gallery bring some of my work to Art Toronto gave me just the excuse I needed to book a ticket. In a country as large as Canada, new painting tends to get considered in a very regional context. I am curious to see work brought from all over Canada show under one roof, in an international context.
ZP: There is a huge rise in women working outside of the home, but we often hear that real support for working women falls short. Being a mom and wanting to be in the studio full time, what challenges do you face?
FA: Actually, I’m not sure the challenges are special to being a mom. I think any parent trying to build a career with a young family at home will be challenged by a lack of time, and likely a lack of money. My particular challenge is part of what I do, or rather what I am – a painter. To say I work outside of the home would be unfair to my family. My work follows me everywhere, it follows me home. Yes, I have to share my time, I would love to be in the studio ‘full time’. That day will come. But my love ones will have to share me with painting forever.
ZP: Your abstract work is often void of direct narrative about your personal life. Was the figurative painting “Distraction” (which won Honorable Mention for the Kingston Portrait Competition) a bit about your longing for painting and it’s conflict with family life?
FA: Distraction is about sharing my love and attention. It is about the challenge of wanting a family, and being very driven as an artists. One is always a distraction from the other. At first I thought I was painting a portrait of a father and son. But as I looked at them sitting there, staring back at me from their assigned places on the sofa, I realized I couldn’t possibly paint a portrait of their relationship. They were sitting for me, and where I should have been seeing my family, I was seeing them in paint.
ZP: Your father, artist Gregor Hiltner, has enjoyed a successful, but somewhat unconventional career. How do his career choices influence your decision-making process as to where to show and how to work?
FA: I have learned so much from my father, and continue to. He always points out the joy and pleasure in the struggle to be an artist. Of course we all have big egos and want a successful career, but deep down it is truly about the quality of the work for him. I was very proud to show with him in Germany a few years ago, and I really hope that opportunity comes again soon. His advice is to proceed in your career with integrity, and paint with determination.