Featured Artist Audrey Sullivan
Interview by Rashidah Salam
Audrey Sullivan is a MamaCITA affilitated member who lives and works in Farmville, Virginia where she is founder and creative director of Red Door 104. Red Door is an art studio as well as a unique learning center designed to foster an appreciation of art for students ages 3 and up.
Rashidah: Tell me a little bit about your path as an artist.
Audrey: I am self taught and cannot remember a time I didn’t have a paint brush or pencil in my hand. At the age of 14, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime when I was chosen to intern at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples Italy, the oldest Opera house in the world. Five of us were given the chance to work on a production of Madam Butterfly including costume and set design. It was the set design that set a fire under me and ignited the artist I’ve become. I went on to learn faux finishing and large mural production, which I was able to turn into a 25 year business in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area. When I started painting for myself (on canvas) my instinct was to go big as I was used to working on massive walls. I’ve learned to paint smaller but still prefer large works.
R: How has living in different places influenced the way you make art?
A: I’ve been extremely fortunate to live in cultures where art thrives. Once my passion was lit, I became a sponge – never missing an opportunity to attend gallery exhibits, museums or simply drink in architecture in old cities. I’m quick to go back to my studio to try and figure out how a piece I’ve seen was accomplished.
R: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
A: This is the most difficult question, there are so many. If I had to choose, it would be my visits to the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro. We lived there for 3 years and I suppose I chose that memory because every time I visited, I recall almost not being able to breathe, being so taken in by the visual scenery, the air, the magnificence and grandeur of the statue. As a child I think I was certain that the statue itself, was God! A close second would be Italian food!
R: What are the major themes in your art?
A: This changes…and often! Someone told me once that I had a bad website because there was no theme or continuity to my body of work. I tend to find a subject that intrigues me and run with it till I’m bored…that could be 5-10 paintings later. I like to experiment until I feel that I’ve mastered something, then it’s time to move on. Currently I’m painting a lot of birds and experimenting with thick body paints.
A: I’m extremely drawn to surrealism, Salvadore Dali being a favorite. I suppose it’s the mystery of meaning and interpretation. Interestingly, I don’t feel compelled to create surrealism, I’m just drawn to it.
R: What types of mediums do you use most in your artwork?
A: Although I love oils, I’m much too “instant gratification” oriented and lost patience with them. I switched to acrylics early on and never went back. After learning the art of gilding, metal leaf quickly became a favorite medium. Many of my pieces either begin with a base of gold, silver or copper leaf which I paint on or I incorporate bits of metal leaf into thickly applied paint.
R: What path has your art brought you to in 2016?
A: A dream of mine has always been to renovate an old building. Three years ago, my father in law’s health was failing and we felt it was necessary to move closer to him. This brought us to Farmville, a small charming town in Central Virginia where we purchased a 110 year old, 5500 square foot building on Main St. in the historic district. I designed a loft space upstairs where we now live and downstairs I created an art studio/school where I currently teach. This fall we are starting our third phase of construction on the adjoining space, which will add an art gallery. The concept behind the gallery will be “Fine, Fun and Functional” art. With so many amazing artist friends, I wanted to create a space for all of us to sell our work. The name of the school/gallery is Red Door 104, inspired by the 500 year old door brought over by ship from Spain. It is currently being restored and should be installed this fall. The address is 104 N. Main St., hence, Red Door 104. It hasn’t left much time for making new art as the building itself has become my version of an art installation. We are looking forward to completing this massive undertaking and can’t wait to get back into the studio to paint!