Every week, The Mac Weekly sits down with a senior arts major. This week we caught up with studio art and creative writing double major Ollie Schminkey. They hail from Pine City, Minnesota.
What kinds of art do you make?
All of them! But I primarily work in 2-D mediums like drawing, printmaking and digital work. I’m also a huge fan of ceramics, knitting, crocheting and 3-D sculpture.
How did you first get interested in art?
No one in my family is very creative, although my dad would make ice fishing houses and deer stands when I was growing up. But as a kid, my parents let me make whatever I wanted (that I could make for free). I hand sewed a lot and my parents let me draw all over my walls.
What do you most enjoy about making art?
Most of the time, art isn’t as stressful as doing other things — as in, I already know that I’m going to fail so it hurts less when I do. It’s harder to accept failing in other activities. In art, I’ve created a system that allows me to fail. When making art, most of the time your ambition is greater than your skill and there’s this huge push and pull. Even if you end up with something that looks good, you’ve probably failed at least three or four times throughout the process of making it. I feel like I most often end up succeeding when I have room to fail.
What themes do you express in your art?
I make a lot of art about being trans and queer. I’m non-binary, polyamorous and pansexual. I’m also a poet, so a lot of my visual art is autobiographical. I feel like the way the mainstream media often portrays trans people is either as “freaks” or as people who have gotten all the surgeries and assimilated into cisgender culture, which isn’t how most trans people live their lives. There’s a huge void in what is made visible to other people. It’s really important for trans people to be able to visualize ourselves and create our own representation.
What is your creative process when you make art?
I learned to hone my creative process from my professor Megan Vossler, who is just the best. I try to use a lot of lists and brainstorming clouds to figure out what I want to pursue at the moment, because I get overwhelmed sometimes by having too many ideas. I also consult other people about my work to figure out which ideas are the least shitty and maybe worth working on.
How are you involved in studio art at Mac or elsewhere?
I do a ton of stuff—right now I’m the guest curator for the Fox Egg Gallery. I book outside artists and I’m currently creating a community art show. I’m going to hold some workshops where we can all make art together, but people can also submit art they’ve made on their own. I’m super stoked.
Are you involved in anything else?
Everything, pretty much, except hetero culture. I’m a nationally-touring poet, so I get to travel around and yell poems at rad folks. I also help run MacSlams — we hold weekly poetry workshops and monthly poetry slams, among other things. Then we send a team to the national competition in April. In addition, I founded and run an off-campus weekly writing workshop, Well-Placed Commas, at the Fox Egg Gallery. And I co-run a monthly queer open mic called OUTspoken!, which includes everything from poetry to storytelling to burlesque to music — basically, anything legal goes. I’m also involved in some other things, but these are the basics.
What are your interests and hobbies besides studio art and poetry?
I sing, play a bunch of instruments, and write songs. I also do theater, sewing, knitting, baking and I try to be involved in activism whenever possible. And I cut hair in my bathroom and pierce people when I have time — you know, the usual.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in studio art?
Do it! My drawing professor Megan Vossler talks about how most people think they’re bad at drawing because at around third grade your desire to draw something starts to exceed your skill at drawing. You become no longer satisfied with your creations and then you stop trying to draw. But if you stopped anything else at a third grade level, of course you’d be shit at it. So you should at least try taking a studio art class and learning the skills. Most people think of studio art as a talent and not a skill, but it’s definitely a skill that can be learned, just like anything else.