How do you situate your work in the context of the current moment?
Clarence Heyward (CH): Fortunately, the work that I have been making for the last couple of years has been about my experience as being a Black American. This now seems to be a headlining conversation.
Shelby Scattergood (SS): Before COVID hit I was working on a series of mixed-media portraits dealing with both eating disorders and society’s overall relationship with food and weight. I was also recovering from a bad health scare and had begun working on a series of “stomach stamps” addressing that.
Since COVID arrived, my work has shifted in a way that very much mirrors the challenges I have been facing in regards to managing an eating disorder and viewing my own body in quarantine. Improvising has been the name of the game for me. I’m learning how to make do with limited resources, which has opened some really exciting opportunities for me. The past few months have forced me to question the work I make and what is truly best for me—both in regards to myself and my art practice. My work has begun to shift from portraits to more abstract work.
What projects are you currently working on and how is social distancing affecting your art practice?
CH: Currently, I’m preparing for a solo exhibition titled Descendants Of Sire which opens August 28 at Anchorlight in Raleigh, NC. Social distancing has affected my practice in that I haven’t had my studio open to visitors in a few months. I miss the energy and the feedback from people.
SS: I’m currently focusing on two main projects. The first is an update to my series of stomach stamps (originally titled “60 lbs,” now called “Shift”). The update to this project is too long to list here, but I encourage you to check it out on my website.
The second project is one that was conceived in quarantine and one that I am very excited about. This project, which I’m currently calling “Tesserae”, is one that was inspired by a previous project of mine called “Marks.” “Marks” was a brief collection of abstract prints of stretch marks. Doing this was an attempt to show the beauty of something usually seen as undesirable, partly by hiding the origins of the piece. “Tesserae” builds on this idea, but instead of the body I’m focusing on food. “Tesserae” visualizes recipes, but in an abstract way. I’m taking the materials from the various ingredients I use to cook (such as foil wrappers from bouillon cubes and the netting from onion bags) and transforming them into abstract works of art that have no resemblance to either food or recipes. I want to show the inherent beauty of food and cooking in a way that separates it from how we’re used to seeing it. This separation for the viewer works in a similar way to how I had to separate food from its socially assigned roles of “good” and “bad” to re-develop a healthy relationship with it.
What advice and tips can you give to artists during this time?
CH: My advice to other artists would be to keep working. Document these moments because this is history. People in the future will study what we create today. As artists it is our responsibility to capture these moments.
SS: Be kind to yourself. Being an artist can be hard, and being an artist in the middle of a global pandemic can certainly feel impossible. There’s no guidebook for what we’re going through, so don’t put yourself down if things aren’t coming together the way you hoped they would. Surround yourself virtually, physically, and/or spiritually with your community and reach out if you ever need help.
Consider doing things to help you grow as an artist. Listen to podcasts, read books, check out other artist’s accounts and websites, sketch, sculpt, watch shows, etc. But also listen to your needs. If you need a break then take one. Do what’s best for YOU.
How are you cultivating community for yourself and what can the community be doing to support artists?
CH: I have been in constant contact with fellow artists as a way to help keep sane. Zoom is now everyone’s way to socialize. I am currently exhibiting work in several group shows, one in particular ”Breathe – Life After Death“, is one that myself and three other Black artists created to speak to the community. We have programming in which we invite the community to share their reactions/responses and have discussions centered around the work.
SS: The base of my community has always been my partner and my family. Building off them I have my fellow artists, my friends, my co-workers, and my social media followers. The biggest thing I do to build my community, especially in the time of COVID, is staying connected to others virtually. I keep in touch with my friends and professors from undergrad, I reach out to new artists I admire, and I follow tags that give me inspiration. I text my family almost daily and have been enjoying quality time with my partner, Aaron, while we’re both working from home.
I think that, with the current climate, the best thing we can do for other artists is to be flexible. Everyone’s needs are a little different right now and we don’t really know what life will be like in a few months. Our needs, whether they be time, money, food, encouragement, etc. are ever-changing. Reach out to your artist friends and see how they’re doing. Offer what you can. Be there for them. Listen to them. Buy their work. Treat them to dinner. Do what you can to help them not just through this difficult time, but through the rest of their careers.
About the Artists
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Clarence Heyward is a painter and collagist. He relocated to North Carolina to study Art Education at North Carolina Central University. His work investigates cultural truths, challenges stereotypes and questions identity. Clarence believes it’s important to “paint his truth” and uses persons of color as subjects in his work as homage to his culture. Beginning his journey as a full-time artist in 2019, he is best known for his dynamic and fresh take on figurative art. Heyward’s work has been featured in venues including 21c Museum Durham and galleries including City Gallery Raleigh, the Cary Gallery of Fine Artist and the Triangle Cultural Art Gallery.
You can learn more about Clarence Heyward’s work at: https://www.clarenceheyward.com/
And you can follow him on Instagram @clarenceheywardart
Shelby Scattergood (b. 1994, Cary, NC) graduated in 2016 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Printmaking. Her work explores food culture in America and the effect is has on our relationship with eating and body image.
Shelby currently works and resides in Richmond, VA with her partner, Aaron, and ferret, Fergus.
You can learn more about Shelby Scattergood’s work at shelbyscattergood.com
And you can follow her on Instagram @shelby_scattergood_art