“Artists create to unlock other people’s memories that they can’t access in their day to day life”

DSC_1403Meet Richelle Gribble – an Oakland-based visual artist who had her works presented in numerous exhibitions including Helen Lindhurst Gallery, the International Print Center New York’s New Prints/Summer 2014 exhibition at IPCNY Gallery, and Christie’s in Rockefeller Center salesroom. Her artwork was also displayed on a LED screen Times Square as a finalist in the competition Art Takes Times Square. This is her narrative on creating visual art to in order to share truths about our humanity and her journey in constantly creating artwork that resonates with others.

Q: Can you recall a time in your life that influenced where your career path should go?
A: When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad passed away. And I remember the way that we really bonded was by painting side by side, particularly watercolor. I think loss of anyone in your life is the quickest way to realize how important your life is, because you realize your life has a deadline. Like Steve Jobs says, I think death is the biggest motivator for life.

“I turned sorrow into ‘I need to use this as a way to show gratitude for my dad and I need to contribute to others as he did in my life’. I tend to use resilience as one of my most key motivations. Anywhere from coming over the loss of a parent to creating a piece that is larger than my own studio.”

That’s when I really kicked into gear and started to make art that was personal to me and saw that more intelligent conversations came up from making art for others. I’m realizing now that resilience is the key thing, which allows certain artists to keep going and some to lose momentum. In the creative field, you will be faced with rejections from shows, sales fall through, and/or you don’t feel like an art piece turned out the way you wanted to. But you need to keep pushing for the “better” whatever that means to you. Your inner self dialogue knows what that is, no one else.
Q: Any quotes you love?

A: “Art is not a notion, but a motion. It’s not about what art is but what it does”. That is simply it, because I don’t make art to get an applause – I want to see people change and act differently because of it. Another is from Jason Silva – he discusses that our books, songs, stories, art are all maps to places we have gone or went. He’s saying that as an artist you get into your flow state and you leave reality to create something by digging up things inside of you, of the internal unknown. However, once it’s made, an artist has an obligation to bring it back and give access to other people that was once only reachable inside out.


Q: What does a regular day look like?

A: I wake up at 9AM because I’m not an early person. I have my morning coffee and review my to do list on Evernote and then cycle through all my emails and I’ll typically make social media posts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook). Then I’ll head to the studio and either start working on an application for a grant or residency or work on a creative project.  I try to do an application and an art project a day but I have to sometimes have to split days for business vs. art. I also do freelance blogging for Idyllwild Arts Academy (where I used to go).

“Oh, and there’s always music playing. I listen to anything from electronic to jazz to folk to classical to experimental. Sometimes I alternate between all of those in a studio night. Usually if I’m working on art project I get here 10AM, and won’t leave until midnight.”

Q: What about lunch or dinner?
I go to Berkeley Bowl and grab a box of sushi or a burrito and bring in trail mix and power bars. And occasionally a slice of pizza. This is really the residency life – you’ve got an expectation that you’ll use this time to utilize the studio and maximize creation.

Q: What is the concept driving your art now?
A: I’ve been learning about the concept of “the overview effect”. Frank White coined this. Once viewing Earth from space, many astronauts report that they finally realize how interconnected we are and gain an awareness from seeing the bigger picture. With that realization comes social responsibility.

“I want to not only display and celebrate our interconnectivity, I want to push it further in recognizing our impacts on one another and the environment. Under this concept, I’ve also seen various films and read different articles about anything ranging from solar power, water distribution, our food system, our transportation methods, dwindling resources, and finding out ways that I can absorb these concepts in what I’m creating and tell a story through them.”

But at the same time I don’t want to be a political artist because some people immediately shut down before even seeing the art. It’s a fine balance between inspiring people to change and demanding them to change. When individuals are inspired, they’re devoted to making things better and have ripple effects that will influence many more.
Q: What drives you?
A: For me, I get this fulfillment from making things with my hands. This is a basic thing I’ve enjoyed since being young.

“I feel like there’s a timer in my life and if I don’t take advantage of the day making something, I’ll realize how much is left untouched.”

I can go to a studio every single day and surprise myself everyday with the work I’m making. I use art to learn about the world, and implement this process of comparing different subjects and visuals and finding common threads/patterns that link truths, stories, and ideas. Anything that could resonate with anyone.
Q: What are you obsessed about?
A: I’m obsessed with intricacy. Intricate designs, intricate texture on the side of the wall of peeling paint. Intricate vine on the ground, designs on a t-shirt. I like things that have two reads – things where you can see one thing from a distance then another by looking at close proximity.

“Macro vs. micro view, that’s what I’m obsessed with. I guess it’s the idea that you can always see something one way, then you find something new once you see in another perspective.”


Q: When have you encountered two forks on the road?
A: Profession dilemma peaked with personal financial tension in December 2014 – I had to make a choice on how I wanted to make a living. There were four options: I could continue to do what I’m doing now (multitasking) in order to pay the bills, or go and get another job that’s easy so that it doesn’t dry out my creative momentum, or go into a job in social entrepreneurship and try to squeeze art in, or start my own studio work space and gallery. I’m basically continuing fork #1, but with the mindset of developing the science-art business eventually.

Q: What’s your favorite aspect about your job? What’s your least favorite?
A: At first I really fought this lifestyle because there’s never an end. I’d feel guilty on weekends, because everyday I’m not at studio, nothing is made. An opportunity is missed every time I’m not on my game. Now I have this structure where a month to 3 month periods are super focused, thus I become anti-social and structured. Then I take 3 days, weekend or a week to reach out to others and socialize and get that human bond back in shape. This gives me fuel to get back to my studio.


Q: Who do you have to thank for being at the place you’re at right now?
A: I almost feel like I want to thank anybody that has told me to keep going and to trust my intuition. Those that have told me that my skills are matched and on par with my ideas. The people who have told me “why not”, those who have encouraged me that I have what it takes. You can only be your motivator for so much. People give me meaning to create. I make for others, not for myself.

“If you can bottle all these voices and use it when you’re drained, that’s the power that keeps you going.”

DSC_1305Q: When are you happiest and fulfilled?
A: When even the security guard is excited about my work. When there’s a kid that’s staring at a certain area of my art and can’t look away. Diverse crowd responding in a similar manner is thrilling and exciting. My most glowing moments are when someone sees my art and gains something in their own light from it. For example, I did these series of aerial view paintings and a women came up to me after the exhibition to thank me because it reminded her of the place where she used to live with her husband before he passed away.

“She had an experience that I didn’t intend, but it contributed to her life. Unlocking people’s memories or propelling them to new ideas are fulfilling results that can happen with art. You’re just a vehicle. You’re creating art to unlock other people’s memories that they can’t easily access in a day to day life.”

DSC_1396Q: Any advice for others who are struggling with what they want to do?
A: My piece of advice for others is that you can spend your entire life asking “why me?” but if you can turn it to “why not me?” that’s a way to break any personal boundaries you set for yourself and to keep striving. This year I was able to do something I wouldn’t have dreamed of, which was sending my art to space and back.

It’s important to vocalize your dream to others and stay true to what you believe in. And work hard and things will come your way. In the end, if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.


Follow Richelle in all the ways below:

Web: www.richellegribble@gmail.com
FB art page: Richelle Gribble : Art
Twitter: @richellegribble
Instagram: @richellegribble