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Artist Interview #14: Multi and Interdisciplinary Artist Christiane Dolores

· artist interview,mixed media,Interdisciplinary

Christiane Dolores, is a multi-platform Pittsburgh artistic force who for 20 years has fused the visual, spoken, and performance into an unending compendium of sounds, forms, and text that represent her unique worldview and experience of living in it.

Currently, she has work on view in the DIGS: Sexism in the Arts exhibition at AIR through June 2.

Where can we find you online?
http://www.christiane-d.us/
I'm on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Twitter's like a writing tool for me. I just released my first published book based on tweets. We went through 1,500 statements and chose 50. They're called epigrams. They're different than haiku. They're smaller than that.

What type of artist are you?
I spent the other day looking at many definitions, sitting with a artist who's similar to me, and we're going, "Well are we inter, intra, multi," and this one's new, transdisciplinary. I would say probably like multi with a dash of inter. Yeah, because I do music, poetry, if someone asks me to act, I will act. Dance is way too hard I will dance. I'm not good at math, so all that counting stuff I can't do. They blow my mind when they do that. Playwriting, visual installation, and sometimes it will kind of merge. That's why it's kind of, I would say it's kind of like a mix. I have done film in the past, but film's too expensive.
My sister teases me and says, "You're still doing the same stuff you were doing when you were a kid," which you know, yeah. I was putting on plays for the neighborhood. I'd borrow people's wigs and we'd do Romeo and Juliet. I was just doing stuff. The other component to it is I have been a curator and I put together shows, which I haven't done in a while. I got sick so I had to stop everything, so this is really exciting for me to be in my own space and to be able to do art again because I wasn't able to physically. Those are some of the things I don't do anymore because they're too energy draining.

Where are you from?
My parents met in Germany, and then he ended up being stationed in France, so then she went there and I was born in Orleans. I forget how many miles south of Paris it is. I haven't seen it yet. That's kind of our goal, to travel there and visit.
Then they came here for a visit and it ended up being a stay. My mom was not happy. I just grew up in this Beltzhoover, Knoxville, Mt. Oliver neighborhood.

What neighborhood do you live in now?
It's kind of full circle.
I moved all over Pittsburgh. Lawrenceville, Allison Park, Bloomfield, Garfield, I've just been in multiple neighborhoods.
I had a house back in '96, my ex-husband has it now. We were one of the first artists of our generation at that time, because there was a whole scene happening in Pittsburgh in the late '90s. We bought a house in the hill and you can't miss it because it's purple. I think it's the only purple house in Pittsburgh. Maybe not, anymore.
And now I’m back in Mt. Oliver.

Why do you choose to make art in Pittsburgh?
I actually got on the road, met a bunch of friends in Santa Fe, New Mexico, living out of a pop top VW and a Volvo. I used to drive around in a Volvo. I was looking for that kind of place and I thought Santa Fe was going to be it because they had, like 80 galleries, it was crazy.
We drove everywhere just trying to find a place to kind of set up shop. I was going to go to massage school and all this kind of stuff, and I just didn't like the schisms I found that were there. Not that it's not here, but it was so extremely painfully obvious between the Native artists and the art galleries, you know people in the art galleries and just so many other places people aren't supportive and friendly.
I remember hiding out in this field, the grass was high enough so we could hide our cars and they would go off looking for work at the casinos or whatever, and I would just be sitting there and I was like, "I'm going home." If there's anything I remember about that place, having studied at CMU, whatever, people were supportive. The South Side used to have 16 to 25 galleries, and then I had friends squatting in the brew house. It wasn't the Brew House then, it was still the Duquesne Brewery. I remember the scene as a teenager, and it was very, very supportive, so I said, "I'm going home."
Made up my mind of the things I wanted to do and started just doing them. I think I came back because people say that like, "Oh, did you hear about this grant? You know what? Why don't I print it out for you? How about I just drive it to your house?" That's very Pittsburgh to me.
There's also a sense, I think we still have it, I used to call Pittsburgh the great artistic wasteland, and that's a compliment in the sense that you can come here and do anything you want. You can make all kind of crazy stuff. It was kind of indicative about some of the things that would come to Pittsburgh, too. I love butoh dance and they would only go to seven cities, and Pittsburgh was one of the seven. There's a kind of oddness here. It's not like Portland, Oregon, be like, keep it weird, but there's also a grit here that I love.
There’s two little stories that illustrate the personality of this place which I think suits me:
I'm in New York multiple times, and I go to hear some live bossa nova music and it's super crowded. We're sitting at the table and they have these little tea lights, and this guy comes in and it's super crowded so he bumps our table our light goes flying, and he's like apologizing like the world ended. I remember, I took the tea light like this and I went {motions putting the light back in place}. He said, "Are you from Pittsburgh?" I was like, "Yeah." I said, "How'd you know?" He's like, "You're just too nice and friendly." That was like one of three times that happened when I would go up there.
So now I'm in Charleston at a conference. I'm with actually with Darrel, one of the people from BOOM Concepts. We're in this beautiful market, Charleston has this crazy arts market. He's getting gifts for his boo, his fiancee now, and he's trying on these scarves. You know, like men with these giant scarves, right? That was the thing. He's trying on multiple scarves and he just looks otherworldly, he was foreign. The woman whose shop it was, she's like, "You know you're going get stopped if you try and get on the plane looking like that?" Then I said, "You're from Pittsburgh, aren't you?" She said, "How'd you know?" I said, "Because only a Pittsburgher would say some crazy, honest shit like that." Saying like, "You better be careful, they're going to look at you like a terrorist," you know, "You might want to pack that and put that in your suitcase." She's like, "Yep, Mt. Lebanon."
There's like a character like, this city's so low self esteem, but they don't get it. There's a character to this place, and what other people know it? That's really pretty amazing that it's not like we're New Yorkers, we have the accent and all this kind of stuff. Like it's kind of obvious. It's very subtle. For people to pick up on this kind of subtlety, so I like that. There are a lot of things I don't like here, but I'm a warrior, whatever. I've been working hard here to change things, so as far ... I think every city's like that. I’ve traveled lots of places in this country, and I think you choose your battles. Not everybody wants to battle with Pittsburgh, so they leave. I get it. I’m here.

What is your favorite part of being an artist in Pittsburgh?
I don't know if I have a favorite. I would go back to what I said earlier, it's community. Talking to my friend who's living in New York and probably going to move again, we're both about the same age. We're like, how do you start over? I said that's why I've stayed here. I do a lot of collaborative things, so the artists here are important to me because I collaborate with them, so I would say collaboration. I do stuff on my own, but a lot of projects are collaborative. My music, it's collaboration art, so picking up to move somewhere else and starting over, I'm just lazy, you know what I mean? I know the mechanism of it. I've watched a lot of my friends do it. It takes years to even make some friends. I like my network and resources here. I'm pretty amazed that people are moving here, like whoa, you just left everything, but they're coming here because of the arts. I try to make them feel as welcome as possible.

What would you love to see more of in the Pittsburgh arts scene?
Excellence. It's gotten kind of, I was going to say, it's gotten kind of mediocre, complacent. Super great art scene, but people aren't hungry here, and you have to maintain a certain hunger. It's easier to live here, but that shouldn't stave off your hunger to really be at the top of your game. I think sometimes with the lack of critique that's happening, lack of reviews,... I've been here a while, so I've seen it. Everyone's just applauding each other. Are you sure that's good? Have you had a discussion? What happened to the questions? What happened to what does that mean? Are you sure you achieved that meaning with this work? People are terrified to actually challenge someone to be better, so I want excellence.

What’s your favorite music to jam to in the studio?
It’s a Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki. He did the soundtrack for The Exorcist. It’s truly terrifying music, I love it. I’m thinking about other people coming into this studio space and they’ll be listening to hip hop or whatever and I’m over here with super terrifying music. It calms me, I don’t know.

What other things do you do when you are not making art…that is, IF you have any free time?
I don't have any free time. I am constantly working to have free time. I want to see my friends. I want to hang out, put my feet in the water and, I don't know, I just want to do stupid stuff, like hang out. Anyone remember how to do that?
It's constant, well because my job is art, and then I am doing art, and then I'm going out and supporting it. Doing nothing is important to me. I actually did a first kind of projects that's a cultural event: I invited women artists for an artist restoration weekend to do nothing. I gave them two versions of nothing. It was packed.
Because we don't have any free time. We don't do nothing. I'm like doing nothing means just sitting on a couch, staring. Or you can bring that stack of magazines that you subscribed to that you've never read any one of them and just hang out on the deck and read the magazines. Just guilt free. Totally indulge. I had someone come and just take a nap. I was like, "Do whatever you want." She's like, "Can I just go rest?" "Do whatever you need to do, but don't do work. There's no work here." I did make an exception for one, she was drawing everybody. She just couldn't stop drawing.

As a multimedia artist, do you have work that you most enjoy doing?
I enjoy it all, but I think I get into phases where I have a certain question that needs answered, and it can only be answered through painting, or it can only be answered by something else. I go into obsessions. I'll just get into Twitter and just write, and then it kind of turns to a book, or music, right now. I'm kind of obsessed with making music on my phone. I was in a band for 13 years, did the first solo album, I'm working on the second one and really trying to up my game as far as production. I know what I want it to sound like. I want to play the music in my head so I'm able to start constructing songs that way so I can be ready for the next album that I'm working on. It really depends. I might be considered manic. I asked my therapist, "Am I manic?"
What's interesting, I get accused of being distracted. I'm not distracted. I get stuff done. A distracted person doesn't get anything done. I just have multiple interests, and I have a muse that kind of just tells me what to do, which was interesting when I was sick or whatever or struggling, I imagine my muse as this skinny old dude at this like linoleum table with a newspaper, and he either puts down a newspaper to talk to me, or he doesn't. I'll be like, "Oh, I'm going to work on this." He goes, I'm like, "Okay, I'll go do a painting." I don't know, it just totally happens in my head.

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