A simple search for “subterfuge” under Google Images produces some amazing graphics. None of these, however, are more stunning than the artwork we found by Alissa “Lissy” Jo Rindels.
Her piece, (obviously titled “Subterfuge”) features a woman whose voluptuous body is splattered with blood. Though her subject wears little else but an arresting glare, she points a sanguineous arm to the right.
F found the picture through an impulse search on Google Images. Mesmerized, F showed D the image. Together they clicked through to the rest of the website to see many examples of women in positions of power and strength. These pieces provoked questions and thoughts and ideas about the subjects and the positions they found themselves. We knew we had to write about them — and their creator. D and F drafted a series of emails in trepidation.
This was the first time we’d ever done an interview, and we needed to make a plan of action.
The process of coming up with questions was an intimidating one. We wanted to ask about the art itself. We wanted to ask about her inspiration. We wanted to ask about her muses and sources of strength. We wanted to ask her about the life of a spectacularly talented artist. Most of all, however, we wanted to ask her about the irresistible female force behind her work.
We finished writing the questions over the course of a few days. (We had many.) Alissa responded promptly. She was gracious, kind, and willing to answer whatever questions we had for her. We corresponded over a short period of time. Soon, we had our answers. We — F and D — would like to thank her very much for her hard work and her patience.
Subterfuge will run this interview in three parts. In this segment, we will discuss Alissa’s answers on her creative process. In the next segment, we will discuss the inspiration behind Alissa’s work. And in the last, we will discuss the larger context of her work. (It is fair to say that there is significant overlap among the categories, but we feel this is the best way to represent what we have learned.)
What Dwells Within, Part Two of Three
We asked Alissa to tell us something about herself:
My full name is Alissa Jo Rindels and I am 27 years old. I am a self-employed, self-representing artist. I took some correspondent fine art classes through Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis, MN, but never finished.
How do you create your art, and how long does it take to complete a painting?
I work in inked watercolor, acrylic, and charcoal. Most of the time I follow the same steps for each. If there is any research involved, I usually spend a day looking up information, brushing up on any relevant reading, and looking up reference photos. After that I sit down and work on a rough sketch for the project, which I will then upload to my computer to crop and size accordingly. I’ll then print out my sketch and carbon the back with soft lead or white charcoal so I can transfer it onto my paper/canvas. This is what keeps my work so smooth, clean cut and free of residue. After the work is completed I seal it with an acrylic sealant. Typically, a charcoal drawing will take me about 25 hours to complete. An inked watercolor or acrylic painting will take me about 40 hours.
What role do color and mood play in your work? Is there a particular mood or situation you like to portray?
Color and mood really do go hand in hand. The colors you choose really can make or break a piece of art, or give it a completely different feel than the one intended. There are times I may start and discard a work several times because the color scheme just does not seem to “fit” what I’m trying to get across. I like to play with foreboding dark moods, something that will get people thinking about the back-story behind the piece.
Obviously we are really interested in your piece “Subterfuge.” Can you talk a bit about that, and explain why you chose the elements you did? A lot of your figures wear headdresses and masks, sometimes very elaborate ones, that obscure their vision. Where did this motif come from, and what does it mean?
The definition of subterfuge is a deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade. That really was the idea behind the piece, I wanted to depict the danger and darkness found within the trials and rituals of primitive tribal culture. This is a basis for much of the art that I do. Primitive culture is really fascinating to me. It leaves so much to the imagination and really gives me the freedom to dabble in the mystic and ornate costumes and backgrounds that I love. It is sometimes in what ISN’T shown, or can’t be seen, that really makes the piece. It gets the viewer thinking, and coming up with their own explanations and scenarios for what is going on with the characters. It’s why I love head- dresses and robes that obscure the face or vision of my characters. It leaves so many questions up to the viewer.
Being a career artist is always risky. How did/are you make(ing) it work? ** As an independent artist, what is the biggest struggle?
Being a self-employed artist is one of the hardest things out there. It’s really difficult not to judge your own self worth according to how well received your work is or what it is selling for. I think that’s the biggest struggle. I would not be doing what I’m doing right now if other artists on the same path as I am hadn’t stepped up and helped me along the way, passing along what they had learned so far and giving me excellent advice. Everyone knows the economy is terrible. I would not say I am “living the dream” or am a success story. Sometimes I get to do my art full time, others I have to go out and find a part time job until things pick up.
It’s rough. It is for everyone right now. Almost every artist I’ve talked to is in the same boat, hoping they can ride out the economic storm before they have to quit art entirely. I just keep trying. I just keep putting art out there every chance I get, hoping that at some point I’ll make a connection or the right door will open up for me. Sometimes it’s so depressing I just want to quit … but I never will. I love art. I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.
There is a fair amount of nudity in your gallery, particularly bare breasts. Do you see this baring of skin as liberating, daring, vulnerable or something else entirely?
I try to give many of my characters a dark allure. Something primal, monstrous … inhuman somewhere beneath. It’s more of an idea that to a character with these traits or inhibitions, modesty is secondary or irrelevant.
Have you been approached by buyers requesting more nudity, explicitness, or fetish pieces? Have you or would you ever cater to them? Do you feel you would be compromising your artistic integrity?
A few of my pieces reek faintly of fetish. But only faintly. Most of the projects I’m approached with very closely relate to what I’m already doing, so I haven’t had too much issue with turning people down who want me to cross some lines I’d rather not. Some artists really enjoy rendering sexually explicit pieces. Great for them, but I’m just not going there. With any artistic profession, you need to be doing what you enjoy, or there’s no point in doing it. I really wouldn’t get anything out of drawing characters with sex balls and lollipops, but I’m not here to judge anyone who does. It’s just not my thing. It’s not the story I’m trying to tell. And I can safely say that’s probably something that won’t change.
Where do you draw the line between art and pornography?
Who was it that said: I can’t define it but I know it when I see it. That really is the way I feel about it. There is definitely a difference between nudity and sexually suggestive situations, and art that is sexually EXPLICIT. Again, we come back to the idea that what you see and don’t see in the pieces the deal breaker. Obviously I don’t find nudity in art pornographic and offensive. Often it is in WHAT the characters are doing while nude and what tasteful discretions the artist uses in portraying that, that is ultimately the deciding factor.
This concludes the first part of the interview. We give you the second section — Inspiration — tomorrow.