The Artist Formerly Known As: Victoria Restler

How did you decide to study art at Williams?

I’ve wanted to be a museum curator since I was really little and came to Williams because I wanted to study art history. But now I realize that I like the art, but not the history. . .That’s not the important part to me, it’s looking at the art. That’s why I love to go to museums and go all the time, it’s probably the place I feel the most comfortable in the world – a museum anywhere. I really like the Brooklyn Museum; it’s my museum.

So, how did you get into art?

The summer after eighth grade, I went to an arts camp. I was really set on being an actress and begged for an agent every Christmas. This was finally my big break. I tried out for the play and got cast in the chorus. I didn’t care that most of the kids were seven years older. I was like, “This is ridiculous, if I can’t get a part in this stupid play, what am I going to do?” So, I kind of hibernated and went to the painting studio. I just painted all summer. I had always liked art, but this was the first time I did a real painting. I did this really weird painting of cockroaches from a magazine just because it looked really cool. It was cockroaches on garbage, I gave it to my grandparents and they still have it hanging up! That summer I got really into Andy Warhol, and did a whole series of really precise Hunts Tomato Cans, which is nothing like any of my stuff since.

Artistically, what are you doing now?

Right now, I am most focused on being a better draftsman, drawing things the way they look in real life. For awhile, I was really against that. . .But it’s become important to render things in proportion and have some notion of perspective; those tools are the jumping-off point. . .I can get really stuck with art, what seems to help is to take away some of the variables. There’s composition, color, and that’s even before the subject. It can be overwhelming and it can stop you from doing anything. My goal right now is just to make stuff, to make things and get better at making them. I don’t care that much what I make. Well, that’s probably not true, but that’s the attitude I am trying to take. I’m trying not to think of myself as an artist, but instead as an art student. My stuff won’t be hung in galleries. There doesn’t have to be a message or social reflection. I am just thinking about working to get better. . .

How have recent events affected your art?

There are other things that are important to me like teaching and education, and I wonder if it’s selfish to make art. I want to do something to help change what’s going on right now, I feel like I have a lot of responsibility. It’s affected me; I have been drawing lots of forms, which go into fire. I can’t escape it – it’s going to have a big impact on the stuff I am doing. For junior seminar, we originally had this assignment to do collections or archives and after all this went down, the teacher was like, let’s rethink the class. I had started to think about what I wanted to do for this project and was really into the idea. I started out doing something with shells because I always collected tons of shells, and I was thinking I have to do something with the shells if I have so many. . ..I started working on it and it seems so silly right now. Just this weekend I decided the shells are bullshit, so that’s out the window. Now I am thinking about doing something about collecting myself. How I could use art as therapy and a way to deal with what’s been going on.

So, Vic, what does the future have in store for you?

I am planning to study art next year, too. I want to go to art school in Mexico because I was really influenced by the art I saw there. There is such a rawness about the art of indigenous people that I saw there. The rugs and the weavings. I was in Oaxaca, which is the center of art and crafts in Mexico; there is so much there. I stayed with these people and saw the way they collect natural dyes…I am trying to find a school down there, but it is hard because there isn’t much of a Williams precedent for it. . .I feel like it’s a big decision to give myself a chance with art next year. Before this summer, I wasn’t sure if I was good enough to do that. I took classes at SVA and the teacher said things to me about my art that no one has said to me before. It shouldn’t be about that, but it is really. Art is so personal you have no objectivity. You need someone to tell you if it’s good or bad, and it’s important to get some positive feedback. He told me I should think about grad school.

That’s great that you’re going to continue making art . . .

For a long time I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be an artist or not. . ..It’s confusing, but for so long I felt I had to decide if I was going to be an artist and if I didn’t love it or wasn’t good enough, I would just stop. Then I realized there is no way I am going to stop. . ..I feel like everyone needs to create things. Whether it’s painting or building houses, it’s so important to create something out of nothing. I’d love to live on a farm and make everything myself, clothing, furniture. Besides being independent of the psychotic capitalist economy, it’s so satisfying to do things yourself. The idea of becoming involved with the art world and art market is so unappealing, it’s repulsive. It’s all about money, of course, I don’t know why that’s so shocking to me, but I really don’t want to be involved with it. . ..

Although I really like contemporary art, I don’t like that it is so inaccessible to so many people; art should be accessible. I know everyone can make art. It’s not a special gift. My drawing teacher, Ed Epping, was talking about how he hates it when people call an artist talented, as if they don’t have to work for it. It’s a skill like everything else, you have to work to hone and improve it. It’s not a gift like beauty. I think art is so universal and that everyone can do it and I hate that its not perceived that way.

I think that went well, do you want to say anything in conclusion?

I wanted to totally screw up this interview and say all kinds of vulgar, repulsive things, but I am really good friends with all the security guards at the WCMA because I used to work there and I know that they are going to be psyched to read this, and I was thinking about them reading it and was like damn, that’s terrible.