COLOR CODED: ARTIST AUSTYN WEINER
portrait photographed by MICK ROCK. written & interviewed by KARA HOBLIN.
My phone rang at 9:55 a.m. — it was Austyn Weiner, calling from her hotel room in Chicago. At the mere age of 23, Weiner has traveled the world, lived in Tel Aviv, studied at three different colleges (including Parsons), and, in between it all, she’s found freedom and fame as a fine artist. Weiner’s work, pillars of contemporary art, explode with vibrant colors while embracing a sense of constant movement. The pieces speak through different mediums, providing the viewer with a universal connection to culture, humanity and society. This “movement” effects the way you feel when viewing her work; where the world around you stops and all you see are piercing eyes highlighted by rivers of color... Kind of like, if, all the people of the world melted like crayons on a hot summer’s day and imprinted themselves onto her canvases. The vast size of her mixed media pieces also creates an overwhelming feeling of being cradled by all these wild colors. If you look too quickly, they may just jump out and grab you.
SHK: YOU’RE CURRENTLY IN CHICAGO ON THE LAST LEGS OF THIS HUGE INSTALLATION PROJECT [AUSTYN’S ENTIRE SUMMER HAS BEEN DEDICATED TO MAKING WORK FOR "THE ARTS INITIATIVE." THIS PROJECT INCLUDES 11 DIFFERENT ARTISTS ALL BASED OUT OF MIAMI WHO WERE CHOSEN TO CREATE INSTALLATIONS SPECIFICALLY FOR A NEW LUXURY SHOPPING MALL IN CHICAGO.] WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE BEEN LIKE?
AUSTYN WEINER: It’s so awesome that all of these artists were isolated in this random hotel outside of Chicago, living and working together. The project is right behind the hotel so it’s been just, like, this crazy little world. Since I finished early I’ve been helping the other artists paint their murals and just being here, being part of the experience, has been unbelievable. At the last minute they said I could do two more, so I have four days left to complete two more giant pieces. It’s really amazing to be in this place where I’m learning and observing other artists from different points in their careers. Austyn and I started discussing the art world in its entirety. It was great to get her raw thoughts on the subject, especially since she’s so young in the scene. What’s really interesting is that, in the music industry, you gotta’ pick them young. You get the early fruit or their done! You don’t even have a chance. In the art world, what’s so beautiful is that it’s all based on time. Nobody’s even really paying attention to you until you’ve really had some years under your belt.
IT IS A BEAUTIFUL THING TO KNOW THAT YOU’LL NEVER RUN OUT OF TIME TO BE AN ARTIST... THE IDEA, THAT, AS LONG AS YOU KEEP MAKING WORK AND BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF THERE’S ALWAYS A POSSIBILITY OF FLOURISHING. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST IN TERMS OF TODAY’S “WORLD”?
The hardest part about being an artist, in my opinion, is there’s no path and there’s no “right and wrong.” Any decision you make is yours to make and will shape your career, but there are no guidelines. All the questions I have, or ideas I’m inquisitive of, have no direct answers.
LET’S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BEGINNINGS. YOU WEREN’T ALWAYS A MIXED MEDIA ARTIST...
I was an artist before I knew I was an artist... Personality wise. But, I was a photographer first. I didn’t really look at it as an art form. I just looked at it as a skill. It sort of just progressed and flourished, and when I moved to New York City it was like a bomb hit me and I exploded creatively. Basically any work of mine that you’ve seen or that you will see, the crazy part is all of it has been pretty much made in the last year. It’s super fresh. I’m very impressionable in the sense that I’m really like a sponge, like a little kid.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE ARTISTS YOU LOOK UP TO?
Jen Stark is a huge inspiration to me. She’s the only other female in this project and I’ve never met another female artist before. It’s just a very male dominated industry, surprisingly. We [Stark and I] don’t have many similarities, but we both use explosive colors. To see someone who’s older than me, who’s gone through it all — and is going through it now and making such innovative, boundary-breaking work — is amazing. I love her creations, but her work ethic is fucking impeccable. It’s like... She goes home and does her math homework everyday. Everything is so well thought-out. Yes, it’s very detailed, but it has this warm and psychedelic quality. To see the work ethic behind the work just inspires me to put in that extra time and be strict about what I’m doing. Another big player in the project is Daniel Arsham, who is really bridging the gap between art and architecture right now. And, I would have to say the third person, that is going to have a huge break soon, is Kenton Parker. He does a lot of conceptual work... He slept outside of the Gagosian and had someone photograph him for two days. It’s a very witty, genius sort of art. Also, Basquiat is definitely one of my favorites. Robert Rauschenberg, John Baldessari (an L.A.-based artist who works with images too, so I really relate to him), Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger... Just to name a few.
LET’S MOVE FORWARD WITH TALKING ABOUT YOUR FAMILY. YOU HAVE TWO SISTERS WHO ARE BOTH CREATIVE AS WELL, HOW DOES YOUR FAMILY MOVE YOU AND YOUR ART?
I have two sisters that are twins, they’re 28-years-old. Farryn is the global digital director of Michael Kors and Amanda is the Senior Accessories Editor at Harper’s Bazaar. My sisters have definitely influenced me. My entire family is extremely creative... I’ve always been a bit of the black sheep because I think I internalize the things going on around me differently than they do. But yes I am very influenced by my family, especially the fashion aspect of my life that they’ve introduced to me. I see it in my work and I see it coming directly from them. My parents are also creative... It was definitely a challenge for a while. My head was an artist before my hands were an artist. My mind was developing before I actually had the confidence and the will to start making physical work. It’s been a crazy journey, but my parents have been everything. They’ve trusted me boldly through all of these crazy, spontaneous and intense decisions I’ve made over the last five years.
I LOVE WHAT YOU JUST MENTIONED, “MY HEAD WAS AN ARTIST BEFORE MY HANDS WERE.” IF THERE COULD BE ONE WORD YOU WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
There was a small pause, almost as if it had been sitting on the tip of her tongue, then a force of energy just pushed it from her lips. Manic. I would have to say manic, eclectic and global. I feel like growing up in Miami... Well, it’s like a country of its own and it gave me this ability to really speak globally — not only through my work, but through myself.
this story was produced for & published in SHK Magazine's Fall Fashion Talks Issue. artwork is artist's own.