My artist interview + report is on an artist named Renee Couture. She works in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, and digital. Her process involves utilizing a variety of materials, and the exploration and use of grids is one of the fundamental aspects of her work.
She is originally from Wisconsin, and attended Buena Vista University, where she obtained her degree in Spanish Language and Art. Following college, she traveled around for 4 years, both internationally and within the United States. This period is when she began developing her artistic orientation to place, and its existential relationship to art and politics. She worked a variety of jobs during this time, ranging from making cheese to fighting fires.
Upon completing service in the Peace Corps and returning from Bolivia in 2004, Renee settled in Oregon. She earned her Masters Degree from the Vermont College of fine arts, and has been living in Oregon as a working artist since then. She has been featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s World Beat, and has been granted multiple artist residencies at various institutions. She lives in Southern Oregon, and works out of a DIY art studio.
She has been featured in exhibitions as a solo artist:
- Eastern Oregon University
- Lane Community College
- Chemeketa Community College
- The Wood Gallery
Place is a fundamental aspect of Renee’s work. Landscape, and how it intersects with culture, politics, and economic structure forms the core of many of her pieces, and her rural lifestyle provides a constant source of inspiration. The interaction between ecological realities and human systems will become increasingly relevant through the slow death of industrial capitalism, and Renee represents this sensibility being embedded into artistic thought-practice.
One striking aspect of her work I noticed right away was her use of multimedia, and the variety of mediums she utilizes. Rather than specialize in a particular form, she uses whatever material she thinks will be the most effective in exploring her idea. This functions as a critique of capitalism in itself, because the capitalist system favors labor specialization, in contrast to the small-scale handicraft production of the late middle ages. Renee’s work seems to represent an example of how digital technologies, such as the internet, and small-scale manufacturing tools like CNC mills and 3D printers, are reviving some of these precapitalist characteristics.
Another key aspect of her work is her use of grids, both as a conceptual exploration and practical tool. Utilitarian efficiency is employed both for creative and destructive purposes. A grid can provide a basis for an idea, and define the parameters in a way that allows the artist to explore it. However, without critical thinking, a grid can also inform a conformist attitude. Renee’s use of grids clearly demonstrates the application of critical thinking about them as a literal tool for organizing, and a metaphor for how humans try to organize a seemingly chaotic world. The tension comes through in her work, because on the one hand it seems very pattern-based, but retains a very organic, human element.