Agnes Pierscieniak is a collector.The San Francisco-based artist collects everything from shadows to photos to paper. Her resulting fine art canvases are varied and eclectic, always with a focus on the interplay between colors, shapes and patterns. Recently, we asked her a few questions:
GreenBox: Some of your pieces almost look like tie-dye at first, but they appear to be nature photos. Can you tell us about those?
Agnes Pierscieniak: Those are digital collages of my own photos. I was at the Palm Springs Animal Park one day and didn’t see any animals. The shadows that day were so bright and so intense. I started photographing the ground and thinking the shadows looked like watercolors almost. Most of the photos I use in those collages were taken in that day. I’ve been collecting shadows ever since.
GB: “Collecting shadows.” That’s a nice phrase. How do they end up being used in your art?
AP: On a wall, on the ground—even a barren landscape can have life in it. Especially once you add color. I add color visually with the computer. It’s almost a game of color—you don’t know how they’re coming together—mixing shadows and colors and seeing how they blend.
GB: So you collect photos as well.
AP: That’s right. I collect photos as you might collect objects for a collage; thinking of how they come together or different sizes.
GB: Let’s talk about your fine art collages. Are those fabrics or paper?
AP: Those are paper. I wanted to take a break from digital work and do some cutting. The papers come from grab bags—scraps from stationery stores. So you don’t really know what you’re getting until you open the bag. It all comes together organically, shapes and colors. Some have stitching. That adds a third or fourth layer with the sewing machine.
GB: They do look layered.
AP: Yes, in fact I’ve seen people reach out and touch the canvases. It looks very tactile. It’s physically layered so they even have shadows.
GB: Have you always been interested in collage?
AP: Yes. I did my undergraduate work in architecture at USC in LA. But I always was more interested in collage. I started working for graphic designer in LA, doing art in a commercial sense. Murals for hospitals and things like that. As a working artist, short of selling online or having your own gallery, it’s hard to have your own artistic platform. But being a mural designer or in environmental graphics, you get to do things in the real world. It’s so rewarding to go back and forth between my own art and making art for a place that really needs it, like a hospital.
GB: So you started out in architecture! How did you go from that to fine art?
AP: In high school I would take classes at the Academy of Art for high school students and I got into photography in college. I got my Master’s at Rhode Island School of Design. Graphic design is a good blend of art and design. It’s about breathing life into a space.
GB: Have your parents been supportive of your art career?
AP: Always. My parents are both engineers but my grandma was a painter, she would visit us and we would do watercolor painting. She was really amazing. My mother’s sister was a painter too, and so they inspired me.
GB: Collage, photography, painting, sewing—you do lots of different media. How do they all relate?
AP: The continuity is color and pattern. Short of that I like to try lots of different things.
GB: A few more questions. You mentioned that instead of animals you photographed shadows at the Animal Park. Do you have a favorite animal, or one you’d like to be if you weren’t you?
AP: Let’s see. I used to ride horses but I don’t know if I’d want to be a horse. Maybe a tiger. I would love to live in a tropical jungle and wear a vibrant orange coat with such bold stripes!
GB: One more. If you could create a flavor of ice cream what would it be?
AP: Actually, I’ve had a lot of ice cream lately because that’s the big thing here in San Francisco. I like lavender honey. Something fresh, but not too sweet.