Artist Interview - Parker Shatkin

Artist interview between Shannon Skye Robinson (Curating Futures Project Coordinator), and Parker Shatkin (Curating Futures Artist).

Date of Interview: 1st of July 2021

Participants: Shannon Skye Robinson (SSR) and Parker Shatkin (PS)

SSR: What is your background?

PS: I grew up in NYC but am currently moving around after graduating college with a degree in studio art. I currently work part-time and do some illustration and design while trying to spend as much time as possible making art. I plan to pursue an MFA in visual art at some point in the (hopefully near) future. Aside from art, I spend most of my time fermenting things, reading in various locations, and learning Russian.


SSR: How did you get into art/ creativity?

PS: I started out drawing and painting and have always been excited by illustration and graphic novels. As my work began to develop and I started to question why I make art rather than what I make- I moved away from those media and towards a more multimedia approach. Now when I create the concept or sensation is always just as important as the visual aspect and one could not exist without the other.


SSR: What do you get out of producing work?

PS: A few things; firstly, I feel that I have ideas to express, that I want people to react to, and have found that visual methods are the most effective way for me to get those ideas across. Second, I think that art has the capacity to teach us as much about ourselves and the world as science does. I’m interested in pursuing more projects that incorporate some aspect of research, which may include recording of reactions to the work which then becomes part of the work itself, incorporating found scenarios into constructed scenes, etc. This is something that I find particularly exciting as it allows me to learn through creating.


SSR: How do you want your work to be perceived by an audience?

PS: I want to induce a sense of unease, necessitate that viewers experience and engage with it. Exposing these moments as an aspect of everyday life forces us to accept uncertainty about the things we see, allowing us to better synthesize the parallel planes of internal and external sensation; my work is an attempt to expose the absurdity of everyday rituals and routines, and I hope that seeing my work causes people to more closely analyse daily scenarios.


SSR: Who are your biggest inspirations?

PS: My favourite artist will forever be Francis Bacon, but I'm also heavily influenced by Alisa Gorshenina and Uldus Bakhtiozina. My non-visual influences, however, are probably most important and include folklore, urban myths, alternate reality games, and Eastern European post-punk music.


SSR: What are the main concepts or themes you explore within your work?

PS: My work is an effort to probe the liminal space which mediates the known and unknown; it is a surreal exploration of discomfort and the intersection of internal and external experiences and an attempt to expose the absurdity of our daily rituals and routines. Recording is crucial in my work, whether through photography, sound, or other means, as a way of emphasizing the physicality of the unrealities I’ve created. I think that art shouldn’t simply be about perfectly recreating an image or showing pleasant things; I hope to peer into the void with my work rather than comforting ourselves with distractions and ways to cover it up.


SSR: Who is your work for? Yourself? A small community? A specific sector of society? Or is it for everyone?

PS: My work always comes from a place of personal experience and in many ways creating this art can be cathartic, but I always create with the goal of people seeing and being impacted by it. My work is for everyone to see because I want to induce the same sensations that caused me to create it, and it is made with the intention of being seen and causing a shift in perspective.


SSR: What is the best piece of advice you could give to another artist, or someone just starting out in the creative sector?

PS: I used to get caught up in the fact that a lot of people think art isn’t worthwhile, is purely aesthetic, etc., and I began to have a crisis about whether what I do was actually as important as I thought it was. I think that it’s crucial to have a reason for doing the work that you’re doing. I’ve worked on and off in graphic design positions and kept telling myself it was the right thing to do because it’s a “creative job,” but really I just made brochures for golf courses and laid out self-help books and had no time to make artwork.

It was definitely not worth the effort for work that didn’t feel in any way productive and was just contributing to the muck of useless information occupying everyone’s time. It’s definitely possible that I have too high of an opinion of myself, my work, and my ability to affect people, but having a motivating factor underlying my artwork has nearly eradicated any worries of uselessness.

Oh and the worst thing I used to do all the time! I would constantly pigeonhole myself into one medium or theme; for a while, I would ONLY do digital illustrations, then I would only do printmaking or photography. Obviously, this made it very difficult to grow my art in new directions and have a well-rounded body of work. And it made me have an identity crisis every time I wanted to try something new or start a project that lent itself better to another medium.


SSR: Why did you decide to join the Curating Futures community?

PS: Art is often a solitary and, to be honest, lonely profession. Since graduating I’ve been searching for ways to interact with other artists and be part of a creative community that I haven’t been able to find in person. It’s also very exciting to be working with other artists who are interested in creating artwork with a focus on sustainability and social and environmental issues.