Woodwork

by Alexsandra Zee

YesYesYes's Jen Snyder asked Aleksandra Zee some questions about her art how she gets along in this crazy world. YYY: I was hoping you could talk a little bit about making art pieces as opposed to making furniture that is also art, because I know you do both. Sometimes I get shy about making art for art's sake. There is a beautiful simplicity to weaving a basket or a blanket, or building a table to eat at. The combination of form and function, for me, takes the artistry out of a "heady" place of "fine art" and into a more utilitarian, useful project with an aesthetic value and seems less bourgeois. Yet creating art as art has a unique and personal ability to represent one's emotions as whatever form they take. Do you have a preference? AZ: Honestly, I never create art just for a functional purpose unless it is directly for a specific commission. I always start each piece with just a shape or a piece of wood and let the piece grow and turn into whatever it wants. As crazy as it sounds I hardly ever sketch--I have a rough plan in my head and then I let the piece figure itself out. I think that is why I have such a large collection of pieces in my studio because I never know what its purpose will be. So be it a functional table, light fixture or purely a piece of work to be hung on a wall and change the feeling of the room it sits in. YYY: How has your work changed since you began making stuff? Do you follow current trends? I imagine you must have to when you work for places like Anthropologie. Do you wag your own tail or does your tail wag you? AZ: I am always influenced by what is popular and was popular in design and art and religion and culture because a part of being contemporary artist is allowing myself to continue to change who I am and grow with my work. I could never choose one thing and just do that forever. I believe in staying current but also taking that and making it my own with whatever spiritual or cultural influence I am strongly resonating with at the time. When I worked for Anthropologie I followed their direction. Now I follow my own direction and I am passionate about making it original. Like every artist, my originality is influenced by what is going on around me. So I wag my own tail but the reason it is wagging is because I am excited about that I see around me and how I can re-interpret it. YYY: Art comes from inside us, and often from our darkest places. Hurt, fear, love lost, anxiety, pain, poverty, displacement... such emotions have fueled the fire for most of my favorite artists, writers, thinkers and musicians. And then I think about you. You're funny, kind, live in California in a cute apartment, a Christian, desired, very beautiful (in fact we decided not to even put up a picture of you because you're too hot and we want people to look at your art without bias because art deserves to have objective praise). How could a human like you have troubles? Do they fuel you? AZ: HAHA! I am a Gemini and am ridden with troubles. So be it my ever changing mood and direction or combating being a strong woman in a field of art that requires strengths that most men are dominant in, I value my work ethic and it is truly fueled by what I am not only proving to myself and overcoming, but proving to the world around me. I can be a lady that enjoys being a woman but also is strong as hell (physically) and I can work my way around power tools and my wood shop. While I'm being completely honest, let's talk about some solitude. I lock myself away constantly and create art during my time alone. What comes out of that is usually something beautiful, but the process of that solitary creating time most definitely serves as a daily challenge and a battle that fuels my creations sometimes from a vary dark place. YYY: Also part two of that question: How does being attractive affect you as an artist? Advantages and disadvantages. It's been effectively argued that attractive people get better jobs and service, get invited to things more, get more free stuff and dates, and are generally valued more than unattractive people by society. I think about it all the time. Does that freak you out? AZ: Thanks for the physical compliments, that always makes a lady feel good. This is a constant question and fear in my mind. I am a woman in a male-dominated field and I do feel that I need to work harder to prove myself because of my girly appearance. But truly, I try and keep my appearance out of what I do completely. It would make me feel like a total failure to know that I only got to show my work because I am "pretty." I am not looking to get attention and receive praise of my art through my appearance. MY WORK CAN STAND ALONE it doesn't need a fancy face to sell it. On the other side of that, confidence is something that I value about myself and my work, I speak passionately about it and feel that is enough. It saddens and also angers me to see artists selling themselves and their beauty to bring attention to their artwork. My attire every day consists of work boots and overalls and I love it. YYY: If you weren't an artist, what would you be? Three things. Like if you could just morph into them right now, no work necessary. AZ: Khaleesi on Game of Thrones. Hot Air Balloon Operator, I get weirdly emotional when I see them up close, I love them (hot air balloons, not the operators) . Sultry jazz singer that only dresses like Jessica Rabbit and is wickedly famous for it. YYY: What did/do you do at Winchester Mystery House? That is so rad. AZ: I have done few large scale installations for their annual haunted house. One of the most fun commissions I have ever had. I built a giant chandelier with about 100 windows and lights and tarot cards. It ruled! and I got to bring my friends to the haunted house for free. I love being scared! YYY: What do you do all day? I always have a hard time imagining how people spend their time. I often want to spy on strangers just to see what the hell people do with their spare time. Are you a Netflix casualty? AZ: Breakdown: Wake up, eat cereal, walk my pup to Dolores and run him around till he is exhausted, then around 11 I am in the woodshop making noise and building things till about 6. Then i get on the Netflix until bed. Friends come and stop by here and there but that has been my life for the past solid 5 months. I have been prepping for a two person show that opens at Luna Rienne Gallery on June first, so I have been a little hermit. YYY: If you could see into your future and know for certain that you'd never make a living off making art would you still continue to do it? AZ: Yes, I would die if I wasn't making art. It is the only thing that makes me feel alive. YYY: What do you think about all the new money from the tech industry creeping into SF? Do you think the bohemian heyday is over? Do you think we're being pushed out and our ideas are being stolen and then marketed back to us at a higher price? Or should we just all become peddlers to the rich? Make our money off the people who have enough money to buy our own overpriced art? AZ: Bring 'em in. I will make art that they will want to buy. I don't feel pushed, I feel even more genuine and proud that I use my hands to physically build my living that is centered around beauty and creating. RAD that means that I will be a minority, that's how I like it!