Renée Poisson: “I make what I can’t see any other way”

from MEETING THE GROUND a multimedia project in process(1)

I met artist Renée Poisson at a poetry reading hosted by North Island College, with local poet Matt Rader   – Renée Poisson’s presence captured my attention.

After 35 years in sculpture, then in video and recently in performance/multimedia, Renée Poisson’s  art emerges from a sensibility grounded in the earth, mixing electronic
media with physical creation. Living in a rural setting has been essential to
her development as an artist.

1/Tell me about your work, how it came to be and what drives you to create?

I work because I need to go below the surface of my mind and describe a wider horizon  than I can see around me. Materials at hand influence the form, whether it is clay and wood for sculpture or images and sounds for video. The content is the trace of my exploring, my vital mistakes–discovery.  I feel pulled (as to a distant magnet).  A restlessness of questions: who is when? I make what I can’t see any other way.

2/What would you like the world to know about your ideas about art, about writing, about being in this world?

That I am open to see, to listen to others and myself. That i want to know more about the inner and outer landscapes people inhabit or flee.

I think of all the people starving, trapped in refugee camps, in the midst of war,  attacked because of race, gender, beliefs, or in cultures so different that my viewpoint would be irrelevant. More than abstract ideas, I am open to conversation, to other people’s stories.

I see myself one of myriad beings in the universe. I am small and temporary. As one of the zillion cells in this planet body my possibility is to fill out my skinspace with all the life I can grow.

3/How do ideas/sensations, intuitions/themes arise for you and then, how do these get translated into your creative work?

My art is the way I  experience the possibility of connexion. I am not a translator. I have questions I need to follow.

4/Tell me about how you shape/structure your day so that you find time to create, to make art, to write, to do that which is in you to give to the world?

Looking over my   many life periods—hitching around Europe, living in a big american city, in a cabin on    the West Coast, sailing in the South Pacific, in a tent while clearing land to build a house, running my fruit tree nursery—I remember doing my work in difficult situations, often late at night after the survival tasks were done. There have been times when I got tired of hearing myself say I didn’t have enough time for my work and have had to make major changes in my life. My life without my work is not my life.

5/We’ve shared stories about answers to the question, “where you from?” What’s the story you’d most like to tell about the answer to that question?

Where I am from? My roots have grown into the forest, river, mountain where I’ve lived for the last 35 years. My roots are equally connexions with friends who live near and far, alive and dead.

6/What brings you joy, right now, in what you are doing?

There are thrilling moments in seeing something develop into its own truth. These moments are brief! What makes me happy is doing the work, sticking to it through the tedious, having the courage to make mistakes. If I can manage to do some of this in a day I am pleased, happy, content and looking forward to continuing. Looking for joy can be a distraction. Telling the truth might not be fun or popular. To stay alive as an artist I need to pay attention to what is discomfitting, edgy, confusing. I think joy is what is there after all the garbage is cleared away. Safety, food, freedom instead of war etc. I doubt people need help with joy.

7/ How does your passion for, your interest in the world around you interact with your creative life?

I flinch at the word “passion” since it has been taken over to sell anything and everything.  Along with creativity and even joy, these words have had their juice wrung out of them by the marketing industry.

As I don’t find a division between my life and my work, I am deeply interested in what surrounds me, from my local community plans to information about other galaxies. I am inspired by contemporary alternative music. I am fascinated by the changes resulting from the web. I am also inspired by old stories, other cultures, other languages.

8/What are the trends, if any, that interest you most, right now, in the world you inhabit?

The human trend away from violence interests me greatly.

9/What is your most urgent desire for the work you are doing right now and what do you want the world to know about it?

My desire is to continue with my work, to bring each piece to completion. Until it is completed I do not know what there is to be known about it.

10/In this world of fast, I think a lot about slow. Any thoughts?

I think time is a chimera! A minute, a year can be long, or short. Any starlight we see is already long out of date. When I’m learning I need to go slowly to be aware of complexity. We are all moving at a high speed on this planet. Fast can be thrilling or insignificant.

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