I’ve been aware of Christy Puetz’s work for a long time. People “in the know” have been telling me about her and her wonderful fiber and sculpture work. Both of us do some work with Free Arts of Arizona, yet we have never worked together, or even crossed paths. So, I was excited, and frankly a little nervous to see her work for the first time. After all the hype, you just never know what to expect. So, I went to Christy’s (and Carolyn Lavender’s) show, Fauna/Fauna at Willo North Gallery last November. I’m sorry it took me this long.
Christy’s beaded and sewn animal sculptures were beautifully sweet and vulnerable. These animal pieces were mostly actual-sized, and each had their own personality. Some were funny, some a little off-putting, others a bit fantastical, while some appeared fragile and nervous to be in the gallery. As you looked, some “characters” seemed to be shedding fur, have a disease of some sort, or wounded. This vulnerability brought the viewer to care for them as individuals. While it is somewhat like being at an exotic Humane Society, Christy gives each character dignity, but does not sentimentalize them.
It has taken awhile to get us both to get this interview, but I think it is worth the wait. Here is Culture Seen’s conversation with Christy.
What brought you to making animals?
I used to create mostly human and anthropomorphic forms. It was inspiration from a show theme that brought me to working with animals. There is a certain personality and pose that I am really drawn to. Not sure which attributes intrigue me most… innocence, danger, oddness, or mystery.
The closer you look, the viewer sees that some animals seemed to be shedding “fur”, or appear to have a disease of sorts. Is that intentional, or a quest to be more realistic.
The series you saw at Willo North tries to express emotions in a 3-dimensional form through texture, poses, and materials used. The skin/fur/covering was chosen to help evoke a creepy, yet appealing feeling. This camouflage has been a theme in my work for a long time, and I do a lot of research on disease and human pathology.
Your meticulous and careful handiwork is quite lovely. So, when I see your work in a grouping, it takes a bit to really look at each piece. How do you wish the viewer to see your work?
I wish that everyone would be able to touch them, and believe that half of the experience of my work is to get the tactile impact of each piece. I don’t feel it is necessary to give too many details or explain every piece that I make, as I like to leave the viewer with an element of mystery about the piece. With that said, I enjoy listening to what the viewer sees in a piece, and am thrilled when they have an emotional pull in some way by a piece, or that it reminds them of some personal experience. There was a particular piece in the Willo North show that touched two different people. They pulled me aside to tell me how they could feel so much emotion and vulnerability from that piece. They were spot on!
Could you tell me a little more about your current work?
A friend making a comment about joining the circus has inspired my current series. So, my current work will feature animals depicted with clown hats, and like a circus will bring creatures not naturally associated with each, placed together in a circus environment. But, many of these creatures will have exaggerated limbs and dentures. The work is focused on subtle deformity and glitches found in animals genetics.
What else inspires you?
A challenge to try something new -themes or materials Most of my work is inspired by research into emotions, historical events (past and present), disease history, and mythology. I like to create symbolic imagery to represent all of these themes.
I do a lot of research at the library and on the computer. I also enjoy having movies playing while I create, and really like Alfred Hitchcock or old X-Files episodes. Music is always playing…I guess I always have some sort of sound in the background.
Do you remember when or where you first found the artist in yourself?
I have been creating objects since I was very young, starting with making Barbie clothes, and cutting out shapes with a band saw. But, there was no particular time that I thought about being an artist. I think it is something we all have inside, whether we tap into it or not. I guess that when people started to like what I was making, and commented or was interested in my work, I found my inner artist.
I’d love to hear a little about your work with volunteer organizations. How did you start, are their special groups that you like to work with, and how do you recommend other artists to get involved in their community.
I work with many groups around the valley, I volunteer at some, and some where I am a compensated teaching artist (hospitals, Free Arts, senior centers, schools, community centers, and libraries).
I feel it is important for everyone to have the opportunity to experience art and art making. I try to focus on under-served or people that are in a non-traditional art making setting. I truly enjoy the interaction of art making with all ages, providing them with an outlet to tell stories and express themselves. We have a blast!
What would you tell other artists who want to volunteer?
If other artists are interested in working with the community, I suggest doing a mentorship with someone that is already doing it or start volunteering with an organization that they believe in. A good place to start is Free Arts of Arizona if you like to work with children or teens. Or work at an adult center if you enjoy working with older citizens.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to work on my current theme, teach, work in the garden, and apply for public art commissions!
See more of Christy’s work here