Wren Ross

You May Find Yourself
May 6, 2022
Wren Ross


Tell us a little about yourself and your current work. 

was born and raised in Utah and then left to pursue college and subsequent work back East. All of my roots are there, and I think that’s why trying to articulate origins or develop a sense of place is so much a part of my work. I don’t know how I identify in terms of being a Westerner or an Easterner, but that dichotomy stopped being harrowing and began to be an interesting place to explore when I returned to Utah, got married and started a family. 


I have two young children and they are powerful teachers and mentors in my creative work. They’re always making, unencumbered by product and just raptly tuned in to exploring the tools and unpacking their internal dialogues. I draw so much inspiration from my daughters and it shows up in my current work often.

 I feel such an ongoing disruption by the sociopolitical climate these days; current events; the making of a new mythos in real time, that I felt it was necessary to look back at old concepts of myth and fable to reorient. This is always something that informs my work, but lately everything feels so abstracted and unbelievable that it hardly needs any embellishment when translated into my drawings. 

How is your process and work integral to you, your environment, your community?

I don’t think of my work and my environment and my community as disparate entities. As a social worker my environment and community necessarily show up in my artwork (if incidentally), and my creative practice informs the kind of social work I offer. 


I have been moved by the concepts of ecopsychology and the role of ecology in art criticism, and also by the idea that there are powerful responses in the body, at both the individual and the community level, that provide cues for connecting and understanding ourselves. Resonance, it seems, is everywhere and inescapable. Ultimately that just means all of those sectors overlap indelibly, and that each is needed for the rest to be nurtured and sustained. 


My intention when presenting work is to be firstly present and attuned to what the drawings want themselves to be, and to offer them to the community as oracles for self-examination, clarity and an opportunity to reorient. There has never been an aspect of my work that has been about accurately explaining or reacting to a specific stimulus, instead I mean for the narratives to be open and permeable to interpretation. This feels like a meaningful offering to people from all backgrounds and cultures, and they are meant to be universally available.



What are you experimenting with in these new works? Is there symbolism or meaning behind certain aspects included in the new works?

I have been interested in masks and folk customs for ages, but particularly as Covid has waxed and waned. Meaningful images that made themselves known as I was working on these came from Indigenous Mexican mask making traditions, Inuit embroidery, Cajun Mardi Gras masks and costumes, and from a range of Nigerian folk stories. It seems like a very eclectic source, but in fact there are many overlaps in terms of rawness of mark making and palette, and they deviate powerfully from Eurocentric stories which tend to privilege morals and a homogenized anglo perspective.  

Can you speak a bit about offerings and your art, and treating art as an entity? Is this part of your recent practice and philosophy? Where has it come from?

I’ve always felt like my work has been sentient and that it uses me to come through. This is an honor and also very uncomfortable because I frequently feel disconnected from any sense of authorship in the images. However, the idea of offering is a vital part of how I engage with the world. Offering is sometimes transactional (how can you claim ownership of this idea or image without relinquishing control or expectation?) but is more often unidirectional for me. I think as human animals we have become divorced from the idea of giving without getting, that we have lost touch with the potency of the act of giving simply in order to please or honor a larger Something. (I do not mean religion. This feels more loose and spiritual, less prescribed.)  In this body of work I was less directed by pre-determined concepts, and instead tried to work with the idea of ushering in the work that wanted to land on the panels. There was something imperative about the images having autonomy and that I was meant to channel or translate in order for them to come through.  I spent a lot of time fostering a relationship with my blank substrates. It was awkward initially. I talked to them- well complained and bickered; I offered them bread and milk; I brought them flowers and lit little beeswax candles; I sat with them. Honestly, there were times whenI just lay on the ground and threw a great big noisy fuss because I felt stuck (which was for a long time initially.) They were very patient. I felt really intimidated by scale and by working outside my comfort zone in terms of media. What came out of the ritual of sitting and giving over to the panels’ intentions was humbling. There were frank periods of discomfort after each was made (or as they were all being finished together) where there were these big questions- What are these things? What did you make? I’ve had more and less success articulating that depending on when and how I ask.



Where did you draw inspiration from for these works? Have other MW artists in this exhibition influenced your work?

I am so humbled and honored to be given an opportunity to collaborate in the presence of my fellow MW artists in this exhibition. It is powerful to feel an aesthetic companionship with them, but there is also something bigger –  a magnetism of ideas and perceptions about the world and about art making in it that makes me feel at home with them. I don’t think I can help being influenced by this cohort, but I definitely felt like in considering how all pieces might work together that I owed it to myself to try something bigger and louder for a change. 


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