Artist/Mother Denise Gasser
Denise Gasser is a mixed media artist, born and raised near the mountains of Utah. After receiving her BFA in Art Education, she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a time, before moving to her current home in Vancouver, BC. The farther she ventured North, the deeper her work was permeated by the natural wonders of the Northwest Coast. Denise shares her home studio with her architect husband and their three young, and very busy, sons. Her work has exhibited in Canada and the U.S., and is owned in private collections in several countries around the world.
Whether taking inspiration from coastal forests, driftwood, or rollerbladers in neon spandex, tension is a consistent theme in Denise’s work. Tension between flowing, organic forms and rigid, geometric patterns. Tension between foreground and background, order and chaos, reality and dreams. These components are merely tools to express her phenomenological experiences and perceptions of the world around her. Above all else, it is the genuine pursuit of beauty that drives her forward and compels her to create.
Your degree is in fine art and art education. You no longer teach. How has your training to be an art teacher affected your work?
Teaching has definitely given me a very broad range of technical skills. Especially things I would normally not have the patience to care about, like the ins and outs of perspective and value, etc. I really had to hone these in the classroom as I taught, and it's been useful in my own work for sure. The best thing about teaching though, is seeing creativity stir in unsuspecting people, and watching it grow and change their life. It reminds me what a gift it is to be an artist, and makes me appreciate how my own creativity has shaped me.
Tell us about the art after series.
After giving birth to my second son I came to one of those crucial points in life where you start to ask big questions about your identity. Who am I as a mother? Is it possible to keep painting when I barely have time to put on pants? Can I pursue an artistic career while still putting my family first? And on and on. The whole thing just felt so frustrating and pointless. I started this project, Art After, as a way to reconcile art and motherhood. I'm making hundreds of little 5 x 7" paintings, but only working on each piece until I'm interrupted...then I never go back and finish. On the back of each piece I document the start time, end time, and the interruption that forced me to stop. I have learned so much about accepting my circumstances and using the setbacks as traction for progress. It's been AMAZING to see how those little bits of time add up! I'm posting them all one at a time, including times and interruptions, on my Instagram. I love seeing how many people relate to this concept! Lots of comradery for sure. There's also a full artist statement on my website!
You moved from your home town to the big city of Vancouver. What have you done to connect with other artists? How do you stay motivated?
I try to stay on top of the local art scene as much as I can, which isn't a whole lot as a mom of three! But there are local websites and newsletters that keep you in the loop about art openings, talks, and calls for entry. I have a great artist/mom friend. We go to openings in our mini-vans and talk and cry about art and motherhood! It's so great! Even just one person makes a big difference. As I go to openings or participate in local shows, I try to connect with like-minded artists. And if I'm too awkward to talk to anyone, I at least take a postcard home for my studio wall! I hosted a monthly art critique group at my home for a long time (both here, and in Berkeley). Those art nights kept me accountable and motivated me to keep working. Getting on Instagram has been HUGE for connection and motivation. That community has blown my mind. I have made wonderful friends there with artist all over the world, most of which I have never met in person. A few of us check in every month online to discuss goals, give advice, ask questions etc. Whether it's in person, or online, staying connected with other artists is a MUST for survival.