Ari Bird, Artist
Ari Bird likes to arrange things. Like most aesthetically orientated people, we understand this impulse, the drive to move things around until they're just right, but Ari has it down to a literal art form. From tiny packages to huge assemblages, her work invites interaction - unwrap, open, touch, unravel, attempt to reassemble or abandon. Though varied mediums, Ari urges us to consider the lifecycle of human relationships and the vast areas in between intimacy and withholding - the close and the concealed. Regardless of your art degree status, Ari has some great advice for anyone pursuing a life of authenticity and fulfillment. Read on to see what she has to say about the importance of getting lost in your work, choosing your community wisely and how feminism might just heal the world. Enjoy!
Hey, Ari! We love your work! It is so corporeal and thought-provoking. Let's jump right in. When did you know a career in the art world was for you?
Ever since I was a kid, my main way of connecting with others has been through art. And it's clear how satisfied I am when making art is the primary force in my life — so now I’m cursed to prioritize art above everything else so that it CAN be my career! It’s also a personal necessity - not to sound clichéd.
What kind of feelings do you want people to explore when interacting with your art?
Ultimately I want people to feel safe and comfortable. I want others to feel understood. In a culture that is inherently isolating, I believe it can be radical to encourage connection and understanding through art. I think artists can do that by making themselves vulnerable and letting go of ego. Maybe it’s idealistic to believe that artists can have that sort of impact on culture, but it keeps us going!
Where do you find inspiration and how do you organize it?
Because inspiration is all around us and input is everywhere, it’s crucial to curate that inspiration to minimize, organize, reduce or filter certain things out to make a digestible narrative or environment. I have strong impulses to alter objects, shapes, or conversations until they feel balanced and ‘in place’ to me. So in many ways, it's intuitive.
Tell us about the mediums you choose to work with and why?
I work with lots of paper, paint, pencil, and ink. My paper collection includes all types: Vintage Time magazines, handmade Japanese paper, 80's printer paper, old maps, etc. I also enjoy incorporating mass produced objects that I’m inherently drawn to. Recent examples include a plastic hotdog keychain from the dollar store, rope from the hardware store, and white wire grid panel. Usually, I am drawn to using objects and materials for distinct reasons - because of the texture or the way it feels or its history or the way it interacts with objects around it.
Can you speak to your work's use of scale?
Currently, I work incredibly small (like little pieces of art in tiny baggies), or I do huge works on paper. I like working in both extremes because a goal is to draw the viewer in, to encourage them to take time to process different layers and content, and to bond with it emotionally.
How do you feel about the label "Woman Artist?" Are there "Male Artists?"
Though I’ve been minimally exposed to the 'real art world' (whatever that is), I think it’s commonly understood that the 'art world' is fairly fixated on the false idea that it’s okay to continue under-representing minorities - as it has done historically. Especially in relationship to commerce and visibility- and sadly both these components directly impact an artist’s ability to continue producing. To bring it back to the question, I think it's rare to hear the phrase 'male artist' because it's...kind of assumed. 'Woman artist' is a more often heard phrase because we continue to be a rarity. That being said, there are many friends in the arts who respect all people, and I think it's my responsibility to surround myself with the type of artists I want to be around.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Is gender a part of your work?
I am a feminist! Gender and identity are inherently part of my work, as a person who has experienced ‘otherness’. Ultimately, feminism for me is about challenging and eliminating confining gender expectations. These are restraining to our culture as a whole, and there are just as many boys and men who suffer from these outdated expectations. I also believe that if a society embraces gender inequality, it will most likely continue to accept all forms of oppression - such as racism, homophobia, and classism. Because all these forms of systematic oppression are linked, it’s vital to be a feminist.
Embracing the inherent "femaleness" of my lived experience is also a part of feminism for me. I don't need to be less female to stand for equality. I don’t think there is anything wrong with portraying my narrative by using pastel colors, Lisa Frank stickers and other objects associated with craft since those are all materials I’ve grown up with.
What is your relationship with fashion like?
Shopping at thrift stores for the perfect weird specific outfit/altering clothes might have been my first form of rebellion. Fashion was closely linked to the music subcultures that gave me defining experiences/identity as a teenager.
What are requirements when it come to an article of clothing? Do you have separate wardrobes for work and life?
I most respect an article of clothing when it’s made out of natural, high-quality material and when it has an excellent, proper fit. Right now, I like having a smaller wardrobe that I don’t have to think about. I wear all my fancy skirts/dresses to the studio when I want, and don’t really care. I figure “What’s wrong with feeling fancy and making art?”.
What brought you to The Bay Area?
I grew up in San Diego, studied art at UC Santa Cruz, and then moved to San Francisco after school. Now, I live and make work in Oakland.
How do you feel about the art world here?
I love my friends in the Bay Area art community. I have a solid crew of friends who have an impressive work ethic, kind/interesting personalities, and who are producing inspiring work. Having a community of artists who I trust and want to collaborate with is vital! I feel so in love, still, with the Bay Area. Both with San Francisco and Oakland. There continue to be rad inspirations - buildings, people, spaces, creative projects - all around, even after five years of living here.
What do you have to say to those working in creative fields?
I also think devoting time to process is key. Go to the studio and make art regardless if you don’t feel productive or if you’re feeling shitty. Practice the drawing or the process or the mark-making until you feel satisfied. Let yourself get lost - that's a vital part. The studio is my safe space; It’s the place I get to process, create worlds, and make a mess and then clean it up. Make sure your creative space is so comfortable, safe, and uplifting that you quickly forget about the hours you spend there.
If it’s your passion, you will inherently put it first. And that will overcome any obstacles that emerge. Maybe alter your perspective so that you don’t see ‘obstacles’ but… more like challenges that you get to navigate through creatively. Wait, one more - failure doesn’t exist at all. It’s always an experience to learn from. (Can you tell these are things I have to remind myself every day??)
When you're not in the studio?
I really enjoy hiking around in nature alone. I love southern California - Chaparral woodlands, little beaches off the 101, or the Santa Cruz redwoods. Places you can imagine there isn’t anyone around for miles - even though none of California is actually like that!