A Morning With Artist, Andrew Vye

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I walk into the coffee shop, ordering a latte and scanning the open room for a seat. The context limits my options: it’s a Saturday, mid-morning, but I find a small table to curl up at in the corner. My notebook is dogeared, and an easy flip finds the page etched with my preparations for the interview.

Studying the list of questions, I give a glance to thoughts written not 24 hours before. A slight, central anxiety is strung through my words: how do you interview a partner, the person you know more intimately than anyone else, whose thoughts have helped mold the expanse of your own voice?

Caught in this reverie, I don’t see him until he’s in front of me, confidently pulling his chair out to sit. Andrew Vye looks at me, his eyes studying my face with the curiosity of a first encounter. In this moment, I know nothing, and I’m open to the possibilities of all there is to learn.

With this blank slate, I begin with the question of intention, of want, direction and purpose in his art.

Andrew is quiet for a moment, but then responds with ease, “My intention, always, is to enjoy. I enjoy making art, and if anyone else enjoys it, well, that’s just an auxiliary benefit. At the core, I create because I love the process. Making things is one of the most interesting ways I can spend my time. It brings me to the cusp of something, and when I’m creating, I’m on the edge of the abyss, where I don’t know what will happen.”

“It’s all discovery, and it’s all exploration. I enjoy it very much.”

“With that though, I love creating an experience of delight and wonderment for myself and for others, and I see my art as a source of that. It’s a wonderful thing to get to share–curiosity, and a fascination for what can be created.”

Intent extends into process, the means by which we make our thoughts, desires, and perspectives manifest. But, I wonder, does what we want to express reveal itself before we consider it finished, or does it remain a mystery until the very end?

Andrew responds, “Oftentimes, the process of making something happens very quickly. But as to whether or not I know a piece is complete, well, it’s more of a feeling than a concrete knowing that something is done. But to see a pile of disparate objects come together, reveal their relations to me, and become a single entity, well, there’s little else more beautiful.”

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I love that, the idea that the artist is discovering alongside his materials, each sharing in the delight of new volumes exposed, new shapes identified. Both Andrew and his medium consent to an equal partnership, one where the weight of action and response is shared. I want to know more about how he views this relationship, about how he’s acquiesced and taken inspiration from, the very stuff he shapes.

“I like the implicit limitations of materials. There are certain bends and movement that only copper tubing can perform that, for example, steel wire can’t do. And it’s nice, because I love working with limitations. With some materials, too, the more you work with them, the harder and harder they get–they only offer so much give. There are others that I can work ad nauseam or revisit a few months later. But with some, they become harder and harder to move and change.”

“I see limitations as a game.”

We push this question of relationships and roles in his art further, and Andrew, seeking a visual to represent his thoughts, strikes an eloquent analogy. “I see the artist as a dancer and the materials his partner.” He pauses, defining it further, “Let’s say you’re dancing with someone who’s incredible talented at salsa–of course you’ll want to dance salsa with them. I see the materials as an invitation to dance a certain dance.”

Deciding that his analogy has fulfilled its role in communicating the abstract notion, Andrew turns back to the content of our conversation. “While you’re working a piece, you’re asking it to show you what it can do, how it bends, how much it gives. It’s a joy to find out how foam, tubing, or copper wire each chooses to dance.”

“But I can contribute, making decisions myself. I have some volition in how the final piece comes together. The beautiful thing about a dance with a partner is that, together, you’re trying to create a single dance that is more beautiful than either of you dancing alone. You’re not two individual people dancing next to each other. When I make art, I bring my experience, my interest, my feelings, and my passion.”

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I listen to Andrew with an intense desire to know more, brimming with more questions about process, but I surprise myself, and turn to representation, the desire to communicate something beyond what we already know and carrying the weight of its discussion through art. How does the artist understand what he creates, and does he hold his audience to similar expectations?

“There are two main ways that I look at my pieces. This first is like clouds, the possibility found not in a single answer, but in possibility. In the same way clouds can look like something you recognize, something you pull from past context or memory, it can be entirely different to someone else. I love that variance.”

“I want people to see my work and ask what it could be. I don’t want people to be concerned with what it is or what it’s supposed to mean. I’m not setting out to create something concrete. I have my own inklings and opinions about what the piece reminds me of, sure, but I don’t need anyone else to make that connection. I love it when people discover something entirely different in my work.”

“More than anything, I want my pieces to be an invitation to wonder.”

“I want people to look at a piece and think of its origin and then build and create their own separate ending. ‘What was the material? What was the first bend?’ I want my work to be an invitation to those sorts of questions.”

I listen to this, loving the permission of interpretation Andrew allows and intends for his work. For many, the convention surrounding art is one of should, giving so much over to how art should be interpreted, how we should digest it and take it in. There’s this push and this pressure to uncover what it means, creating a separation from the possibility of a very visceral, very meaningful experience.

Hearing Andrew describe this phenomenon, and the opposing agenda of his work, I’m listening to him deliver the reality of something I’ve always hoped to be true: Art doesn’t have to intimidate, nor does it need to exclude. We don’t have to know, and we don’t have to understand. All that is necessary is this openness to wonder, and acceptance of abundant meaning.

“Beyond that, I want my art to remind people to take their time and to give themselves grace. My pieces bend, twist, and contort. They turn in on themselves and away from themselves. I find it comforting to look at them as a journey, and to be reminded that any journey is far more than left or right. It’s up and down, back and forwards, between, betwixt, and amongst. For me, that’s an important thing to remember: Your journey has so many beautiful twists and bends that will create beautiful volume and result in a beautiful shape.”

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Andrew’s capacity for patience is easily-discernible, and his belief that the world reveals itself as quickly or as slowly as it needs to encouraging. With patience comes a trust that things will take shape in time, lending a certain restraint that often allows the greatest beauty to be conveyed.

“In my practice, for me to make something often involves a lot of time doing nothing. There’s so much time given over to looking at my pieces in process. I find that if I give it the time, the piece will tell me what it needs.”

“I think the whole world is telling us all of the stories we’d ever need, if only we would listen.”

I’m fascinated by this, always enthralled with the surprises creatives reveal about their process. But with that, I’m curious about the lives lived outside the act of making, and I ask Andrew how he recharges and balances his time in the studio.

“Many people encounter things like writer’s block or believe that they don’t have an idea that’ll allow them to start. Oftentimes, I don’t have any idea, but I still want to make something. So I will. It’s in stopping that I find I have a hard time. If I’m feeling tired, or if I’ve exhausted the process, I power through it. I’m trying to get better at paying attention to that, to noticing when I’m feeling tired, accepting it, and stopping. I need to trust that it will be better if I do so.”

I face the opposite issue. Procrastination riddles my work, a failure to begin the greatest obstacle to ever finishing. But, I wonder, when it’s so easy to start, where does that inability to stop arise from?

“I think it comes from an undefined view of the word ‘enough.’ It’s the question of whether or not I’ve done enough, and in the past, the answer to that was always no. And the cultural messaging supports that: ‘Give it all you’ve got. Work until you have nothing left to give.’”

“But at the end of the day, I’m not trying to be an artist. I’m trying to be alive. I’m trying to be a human, and making art is a vibrant part of that. But it’s just that, a part.”

“So when I’m not making something, I’m actively seeking ways to refresh and rejuvenate myself. Sometimes, that’s taking a long bath, or reading a good book. Watching a documentary or writing. For me, things that are done with the intention of being restful become restful, no matter what they are.”

“I need to, and I want to live a life outside of my work. A life that supports my art, invigorating it and inspiring it, but that’s also its own thing. At the end of the day, and at the end of my life, I want to reflect and know that it was good. I don’t want to make great art and have a life of pain, struggle, and regret.”

Andrew finishes his thought, and it’s led to what I know, immediately, is my final question: What is regret?

“I’ve been thinking a lot recently about whether or not regret is a useful emotion. Do we actually need to feel regret? Regret can be a catalyst for forgiveness, for yourself or for others. Beyond that though, it becomes toxic, a burden, and something that takes up space without providing value. Ultimately, I view regret as a sign, as a waypoint or an indicator that I need to blanket whatever I’m feeling with forgiveness.”

This, I’ve discovered over the course of our 45 minutes together, is how you interview your partner. Though you begin and end each day in conversation with them, you remain ever curious, finding their interests, thoughts, movements, and concerns fascinating, all of it standing as a remarkable representation of a person.

And that’s what I’m reminded of today: Though I understand him through this lens of intimacy and closeness, I also know that, as an artist, there’s no shortage of wonder he can create. And as a writer, it’s my responsibility and my joy to find his story’s shape with words.

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Isabelle EymanComment