Thursday, September 22, 2011

Featured Artist: Adria Arch


First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work.

Featured artist: Adria Arch

I am Adria Arch. I was born in Niagara Falls, New York, raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have been living in the Boston area for most of my life. I started art school at Rhode Island School of Design and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University as a painting major. I then attended graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and received an MFA in painting.

When and how did you get interested in art making?

Earliest art by Adria, making freehand drawing in sand.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in making art. As a child, if friends came over to my house to play, we would end up drawing. I coveted my set of 100 Crayola crayons, and pored over the exotic colors like periwinkle and magenta. My most vivid memories involve art materials – the smell of wax crayons and wet finger paints. The experience of being lost in the process gave me intense pleasure as a child. My mother, who might have been an artist if she had had the opportunity, took me to see art, dance, theater and musical events of all kinds – this was easy to do in Pittsburgh which is relatively small and easy to get around, and the proximity of a number of colleges and universities attracted lots of cultural events to the area. I spent a lot of time wandering the exhibits at Carnegie Museum of Art and the Phipps Conservatory which housed huge displays of flowers and exotic plants. As a teen, I took art classes at Carnegie Mellon University on weekends and during the summers. There were a few significant teachers who seemed to take a special interest in me, and who made me feel as though I could become an artist.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art? Do you teach, write and/or curate art exhibits? If so, give us some details?

I recently resigned from the job I held for the past seven years as Education Director at the Arlington Center for the Arts in Arlington, Massachusetts. Before that, I taught art at local museums and colleges in the Boston area. Now I’m back to teaching at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA.

ast summer, I was chosen to be a GOLDEN Working Artist, which means that I am trained to teach others how to use the GOLDEN acrylic line of products. I give free lecture demos and tuition-based workshops to colleges and art organizations. This job gives me freedom and flexibility to make my own schedule, which is more conducive to a steady studio practice. (Please follow LINK for lecture demo and workshop schedules.)

Below images are two pieces of my recent experiments with the GOLDEN acrylics, lots of layering, and different surfaces have finally come together.

Adria Arch, Ice Flow, 2010, acrylic on panel, 30" x 20"

Adria Arch, Heartbreak Hotel, 2010, acrylic on panel, 30" x 20"

I am currently involved in trying to bring public art to my town, Arlington, MA, and am the curator of the Arlington Windows Project. I hope to turn this new venture into an ongoing exhibit possibility for site specific artwork. The Arlington Advocate covered our first Windows Project in August this year, follow link to read article.

What do you do for fun besides making art?

If I had a dog, I would enjoy walking it, but since I don’t, I spend some free time taking walks with my husband, reading, hanging out with friends (who tend to mostly be other artists these days), and watching movies. I know it sounds dorky, but fun for me really is going to art destination like MASS MoCA. I have a few guilty pleasures, like watching Weeds and trolling the web.

Can you give our readers some insight into your work in general? What media do you work in? What are the inspirations behind the creation of your work? What is the specific message you would like to convey to your viewers?

I currently work in acrylic paint on paper and wood panel, and my recent work is becoming more installation-related. My work is based on incidental and found marks like doodles and shipping codes which I use to create paintings and installations suggestive of emotional states. When flipping through some high school notebooks my now-grown son left behind, hoping to unlock the mystery of his difficult teenage years, I found hundreds of doodles in the page margins. Here was a secret and mysterious language, indecipherable and somehow universal. When I enlarge the marks by projecting them onto my painting surfaces, I find strange beauty.

Adria Arch and her son attended the opening reception for her solo show at Bromfield Gallery in Boston in 2009.

After several years of creating art derived from my son’s doodles, I began to wonder if other people’s doodles would lead me into further engaging artistic territory. In March of 2011, I had the opportunity to explore this idea. Professor Robert Shreefter of Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, invited me to work with his class of art education graduate students to create a mural on a huge curving wall in the student lounge.

Adria Arch, La Loba, site specific mural, Lesley University Porter Square
in Cambridge, MA, March 2011.
Photo: Chris LeGare

Another image of Adria Arch's site specific mural at Lesley University.
Photo: Chris LeGare

This summer, I worked with teens at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, on site specific wall paintings for three spaces in the building. (Read the project description) These paintings were based on doodles created by students in the Teen Docent Program, and were an outgrowth of the work I had been doing at Lesley.


The young people who have been helping me paint are members of the Danforth's Teen Docent program.

Read article in the Metrowest Daily News about the wall installations I created with the help of the Danforth's Teen Docents.

Adria Arch, site specific installation on stairwell wall, Danforth Museum of Art,
Framingham, MA, July 2011. Read the project description. Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Adria Arch, site specific installation on stairwell wall, Danforth Museum of Art,
Framingham, MA, July 2011. Read the project description. Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Adria Arch, site specific installation on stairwell wall, Danforth Museum of Art,
Framingham, MA, July 2011. Read the project description. Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Adria Arch, site specific wall painting in Danforth restroom.
Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Adria Arch, site specific installation on hallway walls, Danforth Museum of Art,
Framingham, MA, July 2011.
Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Would you like to share a bit your creative process with our readers? How does it all start, what techniques and materials do you use?

A studio practice is a lot like exercise. If I stop working out for a month or two it becomes harder and harder to get back in shape. I find if I just go (my studio is in the basement of my Arlington home) and sweep, straighten up the mess, put out the trash, slowly but surely, I notice out of the corner of my eye that there is something I could do to improve a piece over there in the corner, and I do it, and it does improve, and suddenly, I am working again.

Adria in her studio.

Inspiration is overrated. I just go for it, take the dive into cold water, and hope I come up swimming. I get excited looking at art that is edgy and sometimes uncomfortable (often I find inspiration looking at this kind of art in Chelsea galleries in New York), because it gives me energy and encouragement to be brave in my own studio practice.

Below images were taken during my recent trip to New York. They reflect what I was drawn to this time. There are no titles or names attached to these images, they were simply the pieces that interested me. Follow link to view more images.

Perhaps it would be interesting to hear how I worked with the students at Lesley University to create the wall piece, “La Loba”. At the first class meeting, I briefly introduced myself to the students as a visual artist who would be working on a project with them during the semester. Without further explanation, I handed each student a small paper lunch bag fitted with a piece of paper, and a pencil. I instructed the students to doodle inside the bag as they listened to a short story I read aloud. Drawing inside the bag would prevent them from seeing their work, and free them from self consciousness. I picked a five minute reading, a short retelling of the legend, La Loba, from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. La Loba is an old woman who spends her nights searching for and collecting the bones of animals, especially wolves. As she sings over the bones of the wolf, they reassemble into a skeleton which comes back to life. The wolf runs back into the desert, turns into a woman and disappears into the horizon.

From the resulting “blind” drawings I collected from the students, I chose a few that appealed to me. These drawings were enlarged at a few different sizes, and photocopied onto transparencies. Using an overhead projector, the drawings can be projected onto the painting.

Photo: Chris LeGare

Closeups of the painting process and the projection of the doodle shapes.
Photo: Chris LeGare

The background shapes are derived from actual paint spills, imagery that I have been using in my paintings and that I find quite interesting. A group of Lesley University staff and faculty chose their favorite design from several that I created.

Adria Arch, Spilled, 2011, acrylic on panel, 48" x 100", 15 panels.
Photo: Clements and Howcroft

Photo: Chris LeGare

I placed a grid on the wall with a snap line in order to copy the design as closely as possible on the wall.

In progress. Photo: Chris LeGare

The students helped to paint the background of drips onto the wall, and then set to work on the meditative task of painting in the looping black lines of the doodle fragments. I required the students to meticulously paint every small bump and dip in the enlargement in order to capture each line’s eccentricities.

Adria at work. Photo: Chris LeGare

A final element is the textural layer created with silkscreen stencils. An image is burned into the photosensitive emulsion coating the screen, then the image is printed directly on the walls to add more interest.

Adria Arch, La Loba, site specific mural, Lesley University Porter Square in Cambridge, MA, March 2011. Photo: Chris LeGare. Read the project description. Watch VIDEO about the making of La Loba.

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

I really liked what Lacey Daley, from artscope Magazine, had to say about my installation in Montserrat’s Frame 301 Window Gallery this summer. I think it sums up what my work is about quite well:

We've all doodled, whether it be in notebooks, yesterday's newspaper, or that notepad you keep by your phone. What we haven't done is tried to interpret what these drawings might imply or express. To some, marginalia might seem mindless or dismissive, but Arch knows better. She sees these private images as an indecipherable language created in the uninhibited state of the doodler. The bold location of this installation makes the personal become public. Arch invites her audience into this world unknown and asks them to reconsider how they interpret maps and patterns. Perhaps it is the expansiveness of Arch's creation that suggests something universal and almost galactic. Her sporadic symbols and shades are reminiscent of the uncharted stars and constellations in space”.

Adria Arch, Summer Constellation, site specific installation, acrylic on paper and Mylar,
17' x 12', Frame 301 Window Gallery at Monserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA, July-August, 2011

Detail shot: Summer Constellation, a site specific installation by Adria Arch.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

It has taken me a long time to figure out the Boston art scene and my place in it. I have been an artist member of Bromfield Gallery in the South End of Boston for the past seven years. The Bromfield is the oldest artist-run gallery in Boston, and I found a very supportive artist community in that group.

I share the duties of running the gallery as all the members do, and spend time each month staffing the gallery and the receptions. I also help to curate the smaller gallery room that generally features artist members' work. (Please visit its website to learn more about becoming artist member and other exhibition opportunities at Bromfield Gallery.)

Installation shot: Adria's recent solo show at Bromfield Gallery.

I don’t rely on sales of my work to continue, because I would rather be free to make the work that I want without worrying about it selling. Right now, I want to find opportunities to show my work, specifically in the public art realm.

What galleries have you recently exhibited in?

In May of 2011 I exhibited my work at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, MA. The solo exhibition was titled, Adria Arch: On the Mark.

Gallery installation shot, Danforth Museum of Art, Adria Arch: On the Mark, 2011.
Photo: Chris LeGare

Gallery installation shot, Danforth Museum of Art, Adria Arch: On the Mark, 2011.
Photo: Chris LeGare

Gallery installation shot, Danforth Museum of Art, Adria Arch: On the Mark, 2011.
Photo: Chris LeGare

This past summer, Summer Constellation was shown at Frame 301 Window Gallery at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA.

Detail shot: Summer Constellation, a site specific installation by Adria Arch.

Would you like to inform our readers of your upcoming exhibition? Please tell us what can the viewers expect to see in this exhibit.

Brain Storms will be mounted at the Bromfield Gallery in October. The show dates are October 5 through 29, 2011. Treading the line between order and chaos, these new works combine the accidental flow of paint with the deliberate placement of lines and shapes derived from doodles, handmade stencils, shipping codes and other found marks. The evocative shapes and high-key color combinations in Brain Storms suggest emotional weather states: windy, calm or moderately sunny with a chance of showers.

Adria's new installation to be installed at Bromfield Gallery in Boston this October.

These tropically painted panels and scrolls expand on my previous work incorporating my son's high school notebook doodles as the main source of imagery. I revisit these spontaneously-generated characters to execute the compositions in Brain Storms. Site specific sculptural work features wavy lengths of paper, suspended cut outs, and leaning wooden columns.

Adria Arch, Brain Storms, studio installation, acrylic on paper,

wood, and foam core board, 2011.

A reception for Brain Storms has been scheduled for Friday, October 7, from 6:00pm -8:30 pm, with an additional opening on Sunday, October 9 (due to the Jewish holidays), from 2 to 5 pm. I will be giving an artist talk at 4 pm. Your readers are most welcome to join us. Bromfield Gallery is located at 450 Harrison Avenue in South End Boston.

Adria Arch, Blue Spin, 2010, acrylic on panel, 30"x 20"

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

I have an exhibit planned at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA for the Summer of 2013. This exhibition is, of course, not yet defined, though it will certainly feature some large wall paintings.

Adria Arch, Hurricane Weather, 2010, acrylic, Mylar,
and spray paint on panel, 40" x 30"

When Craig Bloodgood, director of the Art Complex Museum, originally saw my work, he was very excited about the idea of painting right on their large walls, perhaps one permanent wall painting. I am thinking that I may go the direction of the work at the Danforth Museum of Art and Lesley University. The space is large and has two 25 foot long walls for exhibition with a lot of space around them. It is very exciting to contemplate what I might do in that space, especially since my work is going in the direction of installations.

Are you available for commissioned works?

I am very interested in doing more site specific wall paintings or installations, similar to the work at Lesley University and the Danforth Museum of Art. Public art is very exciting to me right now. I would love to see my paper pieces created in metal or formed in plastic on a large scale.

Adria Arch with her site specific wall painting mounted on the stairwell wall
in the Danforth Art Museum in Framingham, MA. Photo: Clements and Howcroft

I am delighted to do commissioned works, and I would love to design walls with doodles from diverse populations. I would also love to do more public, large scale art. I could see a bus covered with doodles made by frequent T riders, for example, or to do a high school bathroom with cut out doodle shapes by the students suspended from the ceilings. Interested person may contact me directly at

Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work?

My website is located at and my blog is

Adria Arch, Always, 2010, acrylic on panel, 30" x 20"