Q&A: Cynthia Ona Innis

questions posed by Selah Saterstrom, October 2006

SS: What artists—or other events/things/pieces—have informed your process in significant ways?

COI: Day to day experiences as well as my past are the main influences, and I let these events, ideas, and memories inform the work, my process, the materials and the forms they take. The “Freezer” paintings are about frost in nature, things I witnessed while living in the snow, but they were made at a later time when I was also thinking about a coldness in people. So the work became about the point of freezing and melting, its effect on forms and what occurs just under the ice.

SS: When I first encountered your work, I was working on a book concerned with the relationship between the visceral and the ethereal. Looking at your paintings, I felt that the complexities between these two conditions had been given a kind of visibility that was very particular. How do you, through your work, feel the relationship between the visceral and the ethereal?

COI: There’s visceral and ethereal there, in a visual language as well as in the ideas and processes. I try to tap my history and experiences in my work, constantly mining my past and current situation for an understanding and dialog—the result is often a very layered moment full of contrasting ideas and handling of materials. With the combination of paint, ink, paper, and fabric, I explore the healthy, sick, sublime, wet/dry, sexual, growth, rot, stiff/limp/squishy, thriving and failure that are the fragile properties of the body and nature.

SS: What are you up to at the moment in your studio?

COI: I’m continuing working with this theme of the life processes in plant and animal forms. There are works on paper, an ongoing installation project, about a dozen mixed media paintings and oil paintings, and a few unruly wall pieces in the works for a few upcoming solo and group shows. It’s a productive time for me, and I’m excited about the development of the work and with the direction I’m going.

Cynthia Ona Innis received a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her paintings can be seen in the permanent collections of the San Jose Museum of Art, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Microsoft Collection, the Capital Group Collection, and the Imagery Estate Winery Collection. Among awards she has received are the 2005 James D. Phelan Award for Printmaking, a 2005 MacDowell Colony Fellowship, a 2003 Kala Fellowship, and a 1991 James D. Phelan Award in Painting. Innis exhibits nationally and is currently teaching painting at UC Berkeley.

Please visit here website at http://www.cynthiaonainnis.com