It’s time for another ACE artist interview recap!
I recently had the opportunity to get to know Crystal Neubauer, and here are the highlights of the Q& A with this amazingly unique and creative artist. After reading, please be sure to check out her website at www.crystalneubauer.com!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? What first inspired you to pursue art?
I’m from Champaign, Illinois and spent many years between that community and the Bloomington/Normal area before moving up to Grayslake, a far north suburb of Chicago. I was a painfully shy girl in grade school — except when it came to anything having to do with art. I remember events such as winning an all school contest for designing the cover of a PTA program and being invited by an artistically nurturing teacher to perform skits spontaneously in front of the class which allowed me to come out of my shell. I felt connected and understood. My mother was a crafter; I spent many hours at her side painting ceramics, learning macramé and creating handmade Christmas ornaments. These were the seeds that over the years grew into my desire to become an artist.
Where did you receive your art education? Where did you develop and hone your artistic technical skills?
I was privileged to receive a scholarship to the University High School where I was able to take many art classes that wouldn’t have been available to me if I had gone to the public high school. At that point in my life I had hopes of attending the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, but these dreams were derailed by a young pregnancy and early marriage. Not until after my three children got older, I got divorced and then remarried and had also established a career as a Project Manager in the printing industry, did the dream begin to stir again. I began taking classes at the local community college with a focus on art and psychology with the intent of pursuing an Art Therapy degree. I have come to realize, though, that my current desire is to focus fully on working as an artist and developing my craft to the fullest degree that I am able.
I’ve always been a collector of sorts — picking up odds and ends from the ground, salvaging materials that have been deemed trash with the intent of refurbishing, and frequenting flea markets and estate sales looking for treasure. After marrying my husband and becoming a full time step-mom to his four children on top of mom to my own three, I was looking for a way to leave my full time job and still contribute financially to the family. So, I began to sell the items I collected on eBay. This led me to a community of mixed media artists who were purchasing my items to use in their work and I began to recognize just what it was that I found so appealing about these discarded items — I could see beauty in them and wanted to bring it out in a new way. I’ve experimented with many mediums including assemblage, painting, and encaustics, but collage is the medium that resonates with me the most. I always find a way to incorporate it into whichever medium with which I happen to be experimenting.
Often times the process for me is a spiritual one. I work intuitively and have trained myself to tune in to what I am hearing inside as I work. I often feel that my time creating art connects me to God – it’s the time I use for prayer and worship. I will turn off all distractions in the studio, work in total silence and pay attention to the words, thoughts, phrases or even music that I hear in my head during this time. There is a deeper meaning and message I feel can be derived from “hearing” what my work has to say. One ongoing series called “Uttering’s” comes from this process. Each work then is a wordless prayer or blessing that is passed along to the viewer.
I work in the abstract and try to leave as much to the interpretation of the viewer as possible, although many times there is a message that is very obvious and personal to me. As a collage artist I can intentionally lead with the elements that I combine, but working from an intuitive process, I tend to not even notice the connections between elements until I’ve stepped back myself and viewed the completed work. It is often after the work is complete that I am able to see the deeper meaning and will know what the title of the work will be. Likewise, the viewing experience becomes an intuitive one and I will often see a person reacting on a visceral level — what an honor to be a witness and the vehicle to this type of personal experience!
I’ve mainly focused on building my reputation as an artist online and have only recently began to seek opportunities to show and sell my work in person and through galleries. I have been in a handful of juried shows from about 2008 to present, with the earlier shows focusing more on my assemblage work. This past December I was selected as an emerging artist for the Etsy Pavilion at the One Of A Kind Show in Chicago, where I focused mainly on my collage and encaustic work. The experience was extremely positive and affirming and motivated me to begin to pursue more opportunities to get my work out there.
I’ve attended the show several years in a row as a viewer and have been so impressed with the quality and scope of art that is shown there. My goal was to try to reach the level of craftsmanship necessary to participate in the next 5 years. I spontaneously (or maybe intuitively) decided to apply as an emerging artist this year without expectation other then the experience of trying. I am so excited to have this experience from the perspective of a participant this year and to be able to glean from the more experienced artists I will be meeting!