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Repaint History Call For Art Fund Recipient: Christine Vilutis
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Repaint History Call For Art Fund Recipient: Christine Vilutis

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Tell us about yourself.

I am a Midwestern born and bred collage artist. I’m originally from Indiana but spent my adulthood in the great metropolis of Chicago until a very recent move to just outside of the city. After a number of dead end jobs and false starts in other careers, I’ve made a sharp and focused turn towards collage. I use my educational background in psychology —  I earned a Master’s in the field about four years ago — in much of my artwork. Through my hand-crafted images, I attempt to explore the multitude of powerful personal and political intersections between individuals’ interior and exterior lives. I’ve found in the last year or so, after the birth of my son with my long-term partner, that I have been gifted with a fresh and concentrated creative energy that I’ve never experienced before. That energy, the time in which to wield it, the loving support of my partner amid the stark facts of pandemic quarantine have allowed me to push myself forward in my career as a visual artist.

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
Which artists inspire your work?

Maybe I’m a nerd in the way that I’m inspired by all types of artists. For most of my 20s I sincerely considered obtaining an MFA in creative writing, going so far as to audit several courses at a couple of the big schools in Chicago. So it should surprise no one that there are a number of writers who influence my practice immensely. The poetry and writings of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Micheal Ondaatje, James Baldwin and Carolyn Forche all ring so true in my ears and help shape my internal world, which, in turn, becomes external — physical and visual — through the crafting of my collage art. I am, of course, inspired by other analog collage artists. Too many to count actually, as I am an Instagram fanatic, and I have found the majority of my contemporary influences through avenues related to that social media forum. I love the prolific and stellar output of artists Changang Lee, Julie Liger-Belair and Bill Noir. And I very much admire the texturally-rich concoctions of Andrea Burgay and the slow-burn brilliance of Chicago artist, Krista Franklin. I’m also deeply influenced by Wangechi Mutu and Kara Walker, two more collage artists whose amazing work brims with the political and personal through infinitely surprising ways.

 

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
Tell us about an encounter with art that has shaped your practice.

There are so many moments when my thoughts and emotions are scattered to the wind and my practice just feels silly and little. But there is also this book of poetry by the luminous writer Carolyn Forche that I am always reading, as well as gifting worn copies of to people I love. I’ve adored these poems for a long time, since I was a teenager actually. The entire volume is incandescently sensual and searing in its depictions of the political and personal intersecting along the fault lines of the human race. It is the very last lines of the book that I use as a mantra when I’m feeling especially bleak: “It is either the beginning or the end of the world, and the choice is ourselves or nothing.”

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
What challenges have you faced throughout your career as an artist and what advice would you give to artists beginning their career?

I suppose that the biggest challenge I have faced is understanding and accepting that I am an artist. I have a major case of imposter syndrome — it’s that I often feel too scattered to claim that title. I’m just now in the process of forcing myself to accept that art is not only a passion but it is a career that I’m making progress in. I suppose that means I need to really bear down and do this thing, learn it, work at it constantly, tirelessly. My only advice to other emerging artists is to remember that this is something you truly love and that love takes a ton of constant, persistent commitment and work. I have to remind myself of that nearly every day.

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 

 How has your practice been affected by the turbulence and uncertainty of the past year? Has your work or the way you approach it changed at all?

The past year has been infinitely wild. I have been raising my son with my partner through his very first year of life while locked down through the undulating waves of the global pandemic and as the United States roils in its own mess all around us.
This has also been the year that I’ve produced the most work and I’ve gotten the most positive responses from that work. So I’ve been quite seriously considering my artist practices and processes — problem solving around how I can keep creating and pushing those creations to be the most excellent art I can manage. I’m in the thick of that right now, and I believe that the increased focus and energy I and others are looking at my art with is amazing for my forward momentum in collage.

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
What has your experience been in terms of mentorship and a sense of community in the art world, particularly among women artists?

For me, any mentorship I’ve received has come through connection to the art community. Honestly, that sense of community in the collage world is fantastic, especially among the women collage artists with whom I’ve been in contact. I’ve found that most women artists are open, supportive and extremely kind when approached over direct correspondence. I’ve even found a number of friendships through these means.

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
How will the Repaint History fund support your career?

As I think about creating new work, I’m also thinking about the process by which I construct and craft that work. The Repaint History fund will allow me to procure new kinds of materials  —  glues and sealers, scissors, papers and mats, photographs, paper publications, printed maps and other ephemera  —  that will make it possible to double down on my process  —  hopefully creating ever more complex pieces by more intricate and practiced means.
 
I’d also like to lean into learning more about the history of art in general. As someone who is mostly self-taught in collage, I believe that art education can only enhance my overall practice. I’m considering signing up for a continuing education course at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago with some of the funds awarded to me in service of that desire.

Christine Vilutis

Image courtesy of the artist 
Are there any new projects you are currently working on?
I’m forever-working on a deeply personal project based on my family’s Lithuanian lineage and the journeys they made during and after World War II to establish and live in the United States. I’m using reprints of old photographs from those lives in my collage work, along with a variety of other paper materials from that time period and more current ephemera as well. I’m even playing with the idea of incorporating Lithuanian textiles and weavings into the work. It’s a passion project that holds such ancestral power for me, especially when thinking about my son and what I wish to show him and convey to him about his family heritage.