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Local Artists Live: Marguerite Gilbertson + Tony Veronese
March 13, 2021; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CST
This March, Local Artists Live features collaborating artists whose proposals were selected winners for the MMFA’s Community Togetherness Project (CTP). First up is Marguerite Gilbertson and Tony Veronese, whose collaborative sculpture creation will be installed in the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden in April. Continue reading to get a little preview of the artists and their backgrounds before they go live on the MMFA’s Instagram account on Saturday, March 13, 2021, from 10-10:30 AM CST.
Marguerite and Tony both currently teach for the Department of Fine Arts at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they discussed ideas of exhibiting together, but once the pandemic hit, they—along with the rest of the world—had to adjust plans. “Our conversations about how our separate bodies of work would be able to speak to each other continued, but we put exhibiting on the backburner…Thanks to the Community Togetherness Project we finally were able to take those introspective conversations and visually align our ideas into a collaborative sculpture.”
Tony is originally from Montgomery, and grew up in a “suburban humdrum…[of] cul-de-sacs, bikes and bows with no arrows.” He recalls making a lot of his own toys as a kid from recycled objects, and that his ever-present inclination to make art was strongly encouraged by his parents. Tony earned his MFA in Painting from the University of Dallas, where he also taught all levels of Painting and Human Figure. Currently, at AUM, he teaches Foundations.
Marguerite was raised on her family’s cash crop farm in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and has a deep love for horses and riding. She was engaged in art classes through all levels of school, stating that she “could never get enough and wanted to learn more.” In her collegiate pursuits, she earned a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MFA in Sculpture from Washington State University, where she also taught as a graduate student. She now teaches methods and techniques of sculpture, 3D printing, and performance-based courses at AUM.
Above (left to right): Marguerite Gilbertson, The Arch of Martha, Mama Kitty, and Chula, 2018, insulation board, mirrors, wood, paint, 132 in x 120 in x 48 in; Tony Veronese, Build. Edit. Destroy. Repeat., 2017, oil on canvas, 96 x 48 in
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artists
What is your favorite thing about living in the South?
Marguerite: This may seem cliche but my favorite thing about living in the South is how warm it is in the winter. Growing up in Wisconsin meant I dealt with over five feet of snow and negative thirty temperatures, with wind chill EVERY season. So it is a nice change to live somewhere I can be outside without worrying about if I am going to get snowed in or frostbite.
Tony: The scent of honeysuckle and the clicking of cicadas. I’ve moved away from Alabama a handful of times, each for a period of a few years. I always realize how much I miss these two things when they’re gone.
What are some works of art on view at the MMFA that you appreciate, and why?
Marguerite: I respect Karen LaMonte’s piece [on view in the [John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden], Reclining Nocturne 3, I think it is fascinating how she uses the lost wax casting process to beautifully capture the folds of cloth within this piece. I admire the content, how it celebrates the feminine figure while considering the historical context of the female figure throughout art history. I also appreciate Jamey Grimes, Taraxacum, I visually enjoy the implied motion of dandelion seeds flying away and the overall scale of the piece.
Tony: I’m fairly certain the Gary Chapman work Mutter und Tochter was my first exposure (at around 12 yrs) to what I would later understand is contemporary painting. In a way, I kind of grew up re-evaluating my reaction to this piece and each time getting a greater understanding of its meaning as I matured. At 12 yrs, this painting felt so daunting and confrontational, and it hasn’t lost that quality as I’ve grown, but visiting this work over the years as a teenager and young adult led to me understanding how to “unpack” a work. It’s a work I always stop to visit every time I’m at the museum.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
Marguerite: My favorite is the Triumphal Arch of Martha, Mama Kitty, and Chula. It gave me the confidence that I could make work on a larger scale and the message was important to me. The women in the arch were dedicated to all who have had a significant impact on my life and I was glad I could honor them in this way. It speaks to a specific issue I care about in regards to monuments and memorials and the lack of diversity and representation in who gets to be commemorated.
Tony: I keep realizing that the work(s) I’ve made that are my favorite are the ones I dismissed. I don’t know if I should admit that. I do know they are my favorite because there’s an aspect of spontaneity or as I talked about earlier “giving way to the painting” that was successful later in hindsight. That might be a roundabout way of saying my favorite works of mine are the ones where the end result isn’t what I originally had in mind.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in that moment?
Marguerite: I have a lot of artists and work that I adore but I have a special appreciation for Deborah Butterfield. She was introduced to me early on while I was in undergrad because of my love for horses. I appreciate the scale of her works and how she cast these enormous horse sculptures using found materials like driftwood. I was able to see one of her pieces while visiting Seattle and was excited that I got to be up close to one of her sculptures. I know you are not supposed to touch artwork but I couldn’t help myself when I saw this piece for the first time! I had to feel the material because it looked so much like wood even though it was cast bronze.
Tony: I went to Michael Borremans’ show As Sweet As It Gets at the Dallas Museum of Art back in 2015. I was in graduate school and had seen his work before in print but never in person. While it wasn’t a singular work that necessarily captured me and overtook my memory of the moment, it was the sheer arrangement of examinations and thoughts about painting, the figure, ideas, and drawings. I felt like I was walking into someone’s consciousness. I have a bad habit of trying to encapsulate too many ideas in one painting or piece. That show has become my favorite because of the thoughtful exploration it presented.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on Earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
Marguerite: My most preferred place would be in Washington state. I found the mountains, forests, and rivers so captivating that I long to be back in that environment. There was nothing quite like being out hiking in such a grand landscape and seeing how small you are compared to the greater scheme of things in nature. I’m also infatuated with the rolling hills of Palouse. Every season they grow wheat and I enjoyed watching the colors change from green to yellow. It was like looking at a yellow ocean, watching the rise and fall of the landscape cascading around you.
Tony: It’s going to sound like I’m placating but it’s the Blount Cultural Park. I grew up over on Bell, between the park and my middle school. The time I spent there could be added up to months of my life. For me, there’s always been a sense of peace I couldn’t obtain at the same level or energy anywhere else. That level of calm and clarity is what I seek in the studio.
What drives your creativity?
Marguerite: I love how art can capture a story or an idea, it pushes boundaries in society and what we deem as normal. I have an internal desire to connect with others through our shared and unique stories. My drive to create comes from that place of wanting to talk about a story that might help, heal, or inspire someone else on their own journey. Furthermore, it is my continued curiosity in materials and techniques that drives me to create.
Tony: Communication, a desire to connect and learn.
What is your preferred medium?
Marguerite: I enjoy working with found materials. Ever since I started making sculptures, I like collecting mundane, everyday items and re-imagining what they can become in an artwork. I appreciate the symbolism behind different materials and how the materials play a pivotal role in telling the story of a sculpture. I also prefer working with metal and the overall casting process. I like the laborious nature of making a mold then pouring a positive.
Tony: Painting, but I use different mediums within painting for different visual objectives. Drawing in a painting has the same effect as a trumpet playing with a flute, etc.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Marguerite: As a beginning artist, you have to take time to develop your craft while learning to trust yourself and your ideas. This process means that everything you make won’t be great or perfect. I have had to learn that failure isn’t necessarily bad, there is a lot I learn from experimenting, especially when things go wrong. However, from these experiments, I gain more knowledge and inspiration in my work, so when I do make a great piece of artwork I can feel confident in it.
Tony: Make your “bad” work. Make a lot of it. You don’t have to show it to anyone if you’re not ready, it’s not about them or if they like it. It’s about you, understanding who/what you are in the process of creating. Find the comfort, find the “flow”. There will be days when this feels impossible, that’s okay, try again tomorrow. Doing this thing, making and communicating, there is no real end game. You’re just gonna keep going and keep making and somewhere along the line you’ll be able to look back and see that you had some things to say and sometimes you said it well.
What excites you the most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene, and how might we further these efforts throughout our community?
Marguerite: I’m excited by new opportunities for artists in this community to talk and show their work. I think the opportunities that the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts provides by having Instagram live interviews gives artists in this area more exposure while also being a useful resource for young artists to see different ways artists work and create. I think having artists work together makes the art community stronger, we all have different skills and resources that can benefit one another. I believe the more we share those resources and knowledge the stronger the art community will be.
Tony: There are important voices being heard now. Voices that are going to help shape the way we look at ourselves and our relationships with each other and our society. All we have to do is keep listening to them. That’s all they are asking us to do. Just listen.