Interview with Artist Patter HellstromPosted on Mar 20 2013

By Michelle Champlin

As a current MFA candidate in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts program at CIIS, I strive to use available resources to develop further professionally. I thought bringing the thoughts of an established, successful artist to the table would not only benefit me, but could assist others in a similar position. Patter Hellstrom, internationally exhibited visual artist and recent exhibiting artist at CIIS (her exhibition, "Grief Path," ran through Dec. 31, 2012) happily agreed to participate in an interview. A new influence of mine, Hellstrom utilizes themes including, "Interdependence, Compassion, Impermanence, and Stability within Chaos" in her work.

Hellstrom elaborates on her themes by explaining, "Equilibrium is reached in my work as structural lines hold despite insistent disruptions, speaking to stability within chaos...the work delves into the dark beauty of those disruptions that disorient balance...I seek to understand the forces, which throw us off our balance from moment to moment."

To me, these seem profound and reflective of human experience. In the CIA program, we not only inquire into themes of our work but into our aesthetic values. I asked Hellstrom about hers. She explicated, "I tend to look toward work that I find blends intelligence, creative solutions with a soulful quality... work that is informed by the human experience. My aesthetic values have not always connected with the fashion of the art world. I think this is common because the art world is ever changing in what it values. However, there is a standard of quality that overrides the fashion of the time." It seems meeting a certain "standard of quality," and staying true to one's aesthetic values are the most crucial aspects.
I asked how Hellstrom began her career. She explained, "I was pretty clear from a very early age that I was an artist, dedicated to making work. My art school years were really working out ‘how' I wanted to work not ‘if' I wanted to be an artist. In art school I reached out to embrace every opportunity." She took a business of arts course which, she explained, "...helped me understand the breadth of what it meant to be an artist." She began exhibiting and creating consistent studio habits. Hellstrom also drew from cadavers and traveled to Europe, to "learn from master artists through museums."

I asked Hellstrom about how she became established and financially self-sufficient as well. She stated, "Becoming established as an artist is a process..." which, "... requires ... tenacity, patience, and belief in your artistic vision. It will be very hard and there will be significant setbacks. I have told young artists in the past that one must be as creative in how you make a living as you are in your work. It is fair to say that I began with a patchwork economy, unrelated jobs, an occasional sale...I began teaching and curating, both a good fit with making art. Both of those practices I continue to this day."

Lastly, I asked whether she had advice for developing artists. She explained, "Be true and courageous with yourself about the nature of your vision and how it is realized in your work. Strong work comes from honestly pursuing your point of view. Hear what trusted critics say. Know that professional setback will occur, do not take them personally. Look for people that are in dialogue with the ideas you are working with. Be creative in how you support yourself and be clear in your goals."

Michelle Champlin is an MFA candidate in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts program at CIIS.



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