Artist, Curator, and Community Leader: Kristine Schomaker
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Kristine Schomaker wears many different hats. As well as creating art projects and exhibitions of her own, she’s a curator, art mentor, publisher and a leader in the art community in Los Angeles. Being a Renaissance woman enhances her own art practice and artwork.
“I have always felt that you learn from teaching and that is so true in all aspects of my life. I learn every day from my clients, my team, artists I curate into shows and friends I keep in touch with on social media. I am inspired by the book Artist as Cultural Producer by Sharon Louden, which talks about artists wearing many hats and that is their practice,” Schomaker says. “Artists aren’t just painters or sculptors anymore. Artists are learning how to survive and be resilient in our society. Artists are the gatekeepers and are coming into their own, figuring how to thrive in their own ways. This may mean running other businesses, curating exhibitions, supporting other artists, working 2-3 other jobs. I hear more and more stories how artists are being inventive and adapting to be sustainable in their practices.”
Schomaker’s art has evolved and adapted in its own right, shifting from brightly colored 2-D art to vividly colored mannequin “beings” and objects; to erasing beauty, black paint applied over layers of color; installations in which she has cut, contained, and otherwise mutated her paintings; astonishingly intimate photography; a new, recent form of large-scale 2-D abstracts and her conceptual performance project Perceive Me where she is the artist, curator and muse.
“Life is what drives these shifts and transitions. I feel like all of my work is autobiographical. I create around mood, issue, idea… my art will always change as I change,” she relates.
What inspires her the most used to be visits to museums, and activity that in pandemic times feels a bit as if it happened in a different lifetime. “I used to enjoy meandering through the modern and postmodern galleries, taking in the diverse types of art and visual manifestations of an artist’s thoughts. I would come home inspired and start a painting. Or I would research more, reading art books and looking into the history and memory of art. [Like] everything I’ve done in my life, my art practice will lead me to the next thing. I have no idea what that may be,” she asserts. “Currently I am in a painting mode. My bright, colorful abstract, acrylic paintings have become more of a challenge for me. I decided to document the process on Instagram and it is making me think differently about each layer that I put down. I realized how much my work is about making mistakes, problem solving, ideas of imperfection, layers and memory.”
Presently, she feels her art is becoming more introspective. One recent series involved dots and circles, work she originated from her own Call and Response series of collaborative exhibitions, and work that arose from deep within her mind.
“The dots and circles made me realize that this is a motif that has been in my work for a long time. I did an outdoor installation where I covered a glass door with colored dot stickers. It was called My Imaginary Wall, which is an idea that came from therapy. I feel that I have an imaginary wall that is stopping me from doing many things I want to do. By focusing on the imaginary wall in my art, I am able to visualize it, and eventually either break it down or climb over it. The imaginary wall showed up in drawings and is now showing up in my large paintings as well.”
Her photographic work is revealing, intimate, inspiring and lush. It is vividly representational and at the same time infused with a kind of abstract/impressionistic spirit, one that she plans to continue in this medium. “A lot of my photographic work is either for documentation or it happened spontaneously. I have no immediate plans to do more photographic work, but you never know where the muse will show up.”
Asked if she’s considered combining photography or video work with her painting, she says she has not so far, although they may be thematically similar. But she’s not ruling anything out.
Regardless of her next moves, she says her work is entirely personal, which is one aspect of its strength and resonance. “My work is for me. I don’t create it to sell or even show in galleries. If it happens, that is awesome, but I create art in many different forms because it is how I need to visualize and sort out my thoughts and feelings. The only problem with this is storage,” she laughs.
Along with creating her art, Schomaker is also working hard to support artists and the idea of art exhibitions during COVID. She is certainly not letting up now. “Seven years ago, I started Shoebox PR (now Shoebox Arts), an artist management and marketing company which became more of a support network for artists. I saw the need for artists to get help finding resources and tools to thrive in their art careers. We have been going strong for 7 years and are looking forward to a wonderful new year. When the pandemic hit, my team and I came up with Call and Response, a project to help artists stay connected, form community and keep distracted and working away from the stress, anxiety and depression surrounding COVID. We have had over 400 artists participating to date.” Other projects include a free peer mentorship program to help artists network, form friendships and share resources and critiques.
And then there are the exhibitions. “I have personally curated a couple of online exhibitions, Home/Front through Shoebox Projects featuring 30 artists who use everyday objects as their medium and subject in their work, as well as a video art exhibition, Video Art Today which was also a reaction to the pandemic and the idea of showing work that is presented naturally through the digital format when we couldn’t get into galleries.”
And her work with Shoebox continues to evolve. “Over the last year, I have given several professional development workshops to help artists learn what it takes to be an artist in the 21st century. This includes marketing, social media, community and more. I hosted the workshops through the LA Center of Photography, Burbank Art Association, TAG Gallery and Shoebox Arts. I also have organized online artist meet-ups for artists to get to know each other as well as online critique sessions using zoom.” And there’s more ahead. “I have several new ideas for the coming new year,” she reports. “I just need time to implement them.”
Asked if being a welcoming center in the Los Angeles art community influences her own work, she says that it does not. “My artmaking is very separate and personal. I definitely may be inspired by other artists working today but being a part of the artworld allows me to see more art than ever before. Although this also makes me question my place in [it] as an artist. A recent conversation with a good friend where I asked this very question brought this answer, ‘Fuck that shit. Make your own way. You don’t need to fit in.’”
She calls the LA art community itself “adaptable and resilient. We will continue to grow and thrive as we have been doing. Galleries will open and close and new artists will find their footing and persevere. There is so much great talent out there, and so many different paths to go as an artist. It will be exciting to see where the art world goes in the next few years.”
As to her own projects, she reports “Shoebox will continue to grow and transform as the art world does. We are also adaptable and follow the needs of artists. [Her publication] Art and Cake will also always be here. We have slowed down quite a bit because of the pandemic, but who knows what will happen in the future. We are taking it one day at a time.”
It may be one day at a time, but for Schomaker, those days are filled with art creation, curation, and cultivation. And LA is the richer for it.