by Emily Knoe
Since we know Nick Criscitelli personally, we were able to convince him to join me for lunch to discuss his upcoming show on September 25th, at Rabbitfoot Records in Sanford, FL. We got off to a bumpy start with audio recording problems, but we quickly regained our footing and had an enjoyable conversation about this series.
Tell us about your upcoming show
My new series is called The Green Children. It’s an idea that I’ve been working on now, for about 3 years. 2012 is when I first started really working on it, and only in the past, maybe, four or five months, have I really started to put everything together. But, now I’m trying to do a show, so I find myself more concentrated and focused.
". . . a battle between a very natural way of living and a very overly-produced world that we live in."
The Green Children are kind of like a mythology, a fable, an ancient fable from 12th Century England.
<Here is where the audio stops recording! While we dealt with that, Nick explained the premise of the 12th Century folk story of The Green Children. The story goes that two children, a boy and girl were found in a field, emerging from a pit in the ground, with green-tinged skin. They spoke a strange language and wore strange looking clothing, and were not at all accustomed to eating the same food as the locals. Eventually their skin became less green, but the boy became ill and died. The girl, however, grew up and lived out her life in the area. >
So, you just told me about the mythology that inspired the series, what is the connection between food and technology in these pieces?
Well, I don’t know that I’m trying to show a connection between the two. More so, the idea that as we move away from nature, we become more despondent towards that. Everything becomes more centered on the fabricated nature of things around us, fabricated by us, you know? Versus all the answers that are inherent around us, and all the things that are available to us from nature. I think there were two things I wanted to go for; I wanted to see somewhat of a struggle between our ideas of digital reality, and how that’s becoming something that we’re completely engrossed in now. And, that, you see the female character struggling with in the paintings. And, the guy is more of this gluttonous character that is bent on consumption and whatever is around him, he takes in on himself. And then you see this, more of a battle between a very natural way of living and a very overly-produced world that we live in, and they mesh with each other, and how that interactions plays in it.
Yeah, I think we all struggle with that right now.
How did you come to have the show at Rabbitfoot Records?
Well, that was pretty easy. When I saw the size of the space, and they had just moved their location, they were on 1st Street in Sanford, and they moved to 2nd Street, got a bigger location, had a lot of space. The lighting’s really good in there, as well. They’re prepared for a show. They have the lights you can adjust, overhead track lighting that you can adjust and actually put where the pieces are. I’m really excited about it, because I’m hoping that it hangs well. I’m hoping that I and the employees over that at Rabbitfoot will come to a perfect understanding of how the show should be laid out.
What made you want to be an artist?
I don’t know if there was one thing. I decided a long time ago that I like expressing things in a more visual way. I’ve become more comfortable expressing things in a verbal way, so it’s hard. I go back and forth in that dynamic, I mean, I don’t always want to be a visual artist, to tell you the truth. But, some times are better than others. It seems like the right thing to be doing, right now.
What other mediums, besides acrylic, have you experimented with? Like, nonvisual mediums?
Non visual? Uh, probably, well, would you consider ceramics a visual thing? In and out, kind of. . . that and music. Music, definitely. Music is a great way to express oneself, if you feel the urge to verbally express yourself. . .and musically, you know. It’s just, it’s a different beast all together, though. Some days are very easy on your writing. And, you feel like, “oh wow, I could write a whole novel.” And, then other days you’re like, “wow I haven’t learned anything about writing” <laughs> And, that’s how I feel more often. But, when I have minor successes with music and writing songs, and things like that, I do tend to feel good. I just keep trying to get back to that place over and over again.
Do you ever have moments like that with your visual art?
Yeah, I do sometimes. I’m harder on myself about art. I think it’s because I’ve surpassed the point where I’m unconscious of the ignorant side of what I do. I’m moving more into an area where I’m very conscious of the choices that I make. So, if I see something that, visually, looks bad, I get very irritated about it, and sometimes it can be a setback.
If you ever feel blocked, what do you do to try to get past that?
Geez, I don’t know. Work. I guess that’s the best thing you can do, is just keep working. Work on something else. What I’ve found recently, if I have a side project, it gets me right back into the mix of working on my main projects. But I need something, I need something to come off the plate continuously. Someone’s birthday that I’m making art for, some mural thing that’s happening in town, or something like that, you know, where I can push the boundaries of something else from another direction. And then, it’s weird, when I’m in that working mix again, then I can almost seamlessly get right back into the work that I was working on. Not all the time, but it’s a lot easier to do it.
What is your creative process like?
I’d say a third of the conceptualization happens on paper. And then a third of it happens on the canvas. . . .and I don’t know about the other third. The other third, I feel like, is kind of luck, fate, destiny, all of that different stuff. Like something that I can’t really quantify in anyway. There’s something that pushes the idea to the end, in anything you try to do. I just feel, if I can project a certain amount of energy for a certain amount of time at a painting, I can get it done and created and conceptualized to where I want it to be. But, if I spend too much time in my head, thinking about it, and not applying paint to the canvas, I can’t get that creative process to push me through the painting fast enough. Like I need to have it happen almost immediately.
Where do you make your art and what is your studio like?
I make my art in Sanford, in my studio space. It’s a really nice little bonus room in the back of my house. We lucked out. We got a two bedroom place in Sanford. And, there was a bonus room in the back, and I called dibs on it. She got her own room, too. But, I was lucky that I got a room with such good lighting. I needed a big space because I’ve got big paintings. And that’s where I do, primarily, all my work. I started off doing it in the living room and we were under-utilizing those back rooms. And, I think that was a good choice for us, to move to the back rooms. And, now we’ve got our own spaces, which is good. We’ve got that clear separation, but we’re conjoined in a way, as well. I see it in both of our work. We’re kind of, like, influencing each other’s work, as well, so that’s good.
Now, tell us who you’re talking about, because I know who you’re talking about, but . . .
My fiancé. We moved from the country. We ended up down in Sanford, which is good. She’s from the country and we loved living there. But, living in Sanford has definitely pushed us along, artistic-wise. I think you have an ability to get very comfortable in the confines of nature, out in the middle of the country, and you start to think to yourself, “Why even make anything right now? <laughs> I’m just living a very leisurely nice life.” But, I’ve always had concerns about expressing myself in some kind of way. So, now that we’re in Sanford, it gives us cause and reason to continue working, put our work in places, and stuff like that. To be able to do that together is good. It’s a great thing.
"It’s nice to have places right around the corner from where you live. A place that’s a bike ride away, that you can just ride to and go have a cup of coffee and sit down somewhere that’s not your house."
I like that it’s seeing a lot of development happen, right now. I’m glad I’m kind of, like, on the ground level of that and seeing what the potential is. It’s nice to have places right around the corner from where you live. A place that’s a bike ride away, that you can just ride to and go have a cup of coffee and sit down somewhere that’s not your house. That’s something I didn’t get much of in the country. It was more so, that you’re there and there wasn’t really anything else around.
How has your style changed over time? You mentioned Priscilla’s effect on your art, and you on hers. Tell us about different ways that your style has changed over time.
When I was in college, I was mostly doing portraits. But, that’s where I thought I was at for a while. I thought that I would stay, doing that, but, it’s weird. It’s like what they say, when you’re in school, your teachers say to you that you probably won’t be doing the same thing. And they were definitely right, because I felt it when I left. I had been doing some illustrative projects, right before I left school, and it eventually morphed into the kind of art that I’m making now. It took a few years in between, and that can be a scary few years. Because, when you’re not making art, for a few years, and you have no idea what you’re going to make anymore, and you just left college with an art degree, you’re like “I don’t know what I’m meant to do now.”
". . .when you know it, when you know that’s what you’re good at, you know that’s what you should be pursuing."
I don’t know. I think it’s like when, when you know it, I think a lot of people don’t know it. I think a great many people don’t know it. Art is a very uncertain field. And you don’t know the realities of life are like, you still have to pay bills, you still have to get things done. You know, you still have to get things accomplished. You might have to have a nine to five job that’s not art. A lot of people don’t like thinking about things like that, especially in school, because school is so liberating. Its like, wow I have all this time to do things I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and people are taking it as a very legit thing. They’re saying this is very legitimate. You know, this is a career that people do. I don’t know, I kind of, like, what were we talking about? What was the question? Styles changing?
Yeah, but I was going to go there. I was going to talk about school and . . .
Were we still on that question?
I’m excited now, because I’m doing something that I know I love, and it’s uncertain whether it’s going to be loved by anyone else. I think, being an artist, you’re super hard on yourself, and you believe the worst is going to happen. But when you know it, when you know that’s what you’re good at, you know that’s what you should be pursuing. It’s a really weird thought. Because, then you have to fight the part of your personality that just wants to be practical, and not think that anything good can happen. That you need to, you know, settle down and pump the brakes. I hear my mom coming through my head a lot, you know? Parents in general, parents are the worst! Parents want you to go, and get a job, and be reasonable with your life, you know? In my mind, I feel like a lot of them have hung up their imagination, and their ambition, and everything, for those things. And, that’s ok, too. I’m not questioning whether that’s a good thing to do or not. Especially, when you have priorities, children, and all kinds of things, responsibilities. It’s just that, like I said already, when you know that this is what you’re good at, you have to follow it up at some point, I think. I guess it just depends on what kind of effort you want to put in to it and where you want to be with it. What you want to put forward and how much time you have on your hands, and a million other questions. I can’t say that I’m confident about it, at all. All I can say is that it makes more sense than me going back to school to get a nursing degree, or something like that. I know nurses make money, I just, I don’t want to just settle, necessarily. Because I feel like I’ve been fighting too long for one thing.
"That you might only see how one very small section of the world lives, your whole life . . . that might be the worst thing ever."
I was in the military. Which is really crazy, but, you know, I was wild when I was young. But, I wanted to see the world, see how other people lived. And, I bug my sister all the time about this now, my younger sister, and I tell her, you need to get out and experience things. You need to join the Peace Corps, or something. Because, she’s lived in southwest Florida her whole life, and it’s scary. I’m projecting this idea, that she’s living out the nightmare that I had for myself. That you might only see how one very small section of the world lives, your whole life . . . and that might be the worst thing ever.
What is next for you, after this show?
I’d like to just keep doing the series, bringing it around to different galleries and hopefully get some more shows. That’s my plan for here, in the locale, but I’d actually like to apply for grad school, pretty soon. That’s coming up as well. I’m thinking about teaching, in the future, so I’d say that would be the next big step for me, because that was something that I wasn’t really overly interested in, when I was coming out of school. But, it’s mostly because I felt like people need to be better prepared than they are, when they’re applying to grad school. I feel like undergrad is a very eye-opening situation, when you see so many young people that just barrel in to college, in and out, and it’s just without an afterthought, really. And, my choice was to be better prepared for a master’s program before going off to graduate school. I’m hoping that this series is part of that preparation . . . and the work too, I hope the work ethic stays with me. Maybe it will be better when I get around other people, making art.
You can see the series The Green Children, by Nick Criscitelli on September 25th, 7:00 pm at Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge, 307 East 2nd Street, Sanford FL.