Currently she is a peer facilitator for the Argenta Arts Foundation in their Artist Inc. program, a professional development class for artists, a founding member of the Arkansas Society of Printmakers, a member of the Quapaw Quarter Figure Drawing Group and the Mugs Bunch, an artist support peer group. She is represented by Gallery 26 in Little Rock and currently has work in a printmakimg show at the Arkansas Studies Institute's Butler Center Galleries. She is represented in a self portrait show at Mug's Cafe in Argenta (downton North Little Rock) and has a retrospective of her work at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.
Dominique Simmons first found form in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Arkansas. She has resided in Little Rock for the past thirty years, where she instructed both at the Arkansas Arts Center and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is a recipient of an Arkansas Arts Councel fellowship, has been represented multiple times in the Arkansas Arts Center Delta Competitive, The Arkansas Arts Council Small Works On Paper, and numerous solo and group shows. Her work also resides in many private collections and local galleries.
Comet, Mixed Media, 30" x 40"
Why art? There are lots of things you can do in life, why did making art grab you and not let go?
It was there from the beginning. Actually it seemed all my senses were in overdrive from a young age. Colors, texture, light, sounds (especially sounds), smells just seemed to scream out at me. I believe I became more visually oriented after I lost hearing in one ear at the age of three that making images became my creative focus. Also my Father is an artist, so early on there was that all pervasive smell of turpentine and oil paint and the chemical smells from his dark room. There were also lots of art books in the house. I was particularly taken with Hieronymous Bosch. Pretty scary stuff for a six year old.
Yeah, it’s a question that gets asked a lot, but I’m going to ask it again: What inspires you?
Everything inspires. Music, poetry, science, good food and drink, good company and conversation. I am curious as to how everything works, how things are put together, the structure of things living and mechanical. I am inspired by geography, the weather, why people act the way they do, different cultures, and languages. All of these things color the way I visualize and ultimately create images.
What do you find to be the hardest aspect to being an artist?
The hardest thing about being an artist is also the best thing and that is that the motivation and inspiration comes from you. You are in control and responsible for the quality or lack there of in your work. I am not punching a clock, and I have the freedom not to go to the studio, but if I am not doing something every day in my studio, then I risk not making that discovery that quite frankly makes it all worthwhile, that aha moment. And its those moments that propels you to make that next discovery.
If you could say there is one thing that drives your creative process, what would that be?
I love to experiment. All good artists are mad scientists and all good scientists are really just artists. Both disciplines require that leap of faith, that if you combine materials in just right way, just the right amount at just right time, magic will happen. I am an alchemist. For the poet it is the right combination of words. For me it is the coming together of the elements of art (line, color, shape, texture), etc.) and using the principles of design to communicate a particular idea.
Most artists have some idea of where they are going with their work while they are creating it. However, there is always the aspect that the viewer will project their own ideas and experiences onto the work when they see it. Do you feel that you, in a sense, lose some control of the work once it is released into the wild? Is this bothersome to you?
When I am in my studio and someone is visiting and starts to assign meaning to piece that I have not finished, it is very annoying, especially if I have not asked for feed-back. Work in it’s formative stages is very fragile and I am very protective of it. Once it is out there in the public eye, of course I want people to appreciate my work, but the older I get the more secure I am in my worth as an artist.I also appreciate that most people don't have my understanding, vocabulary and experience concerning art, so its kind of fun to see the light in their eyes when you talk to them about art in way that enlightens not intimidates.
What role do you see the artist playing in a community?
Artists set the bar in their community for what is good art. Good artists constantly challenge themselves and look to the larger world for ideas and inspiration. And by the same token those art meccas like New York and Santa Fe would expand their universe by considering the worth of artists outside their narrow purview. Artists must resist the temptation to dumb down their work in order to sell especially when they know thats what they are doing. We want to sell our work so that we can share our vision with the world, but we do our patrons and ourselves a disfavor when we put less than our best in the public domain.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself in at least two good galleries outside of Arkansas and at least one one person show a year. My work is as good as it has ever been and my commitment to learning new things has not lessened with the years.
Any ambitious or exciting projects on the horizon for you? What’s new in your career that you’re excited about and looking forward to?
Yes! For the the Arkansas Capitol Exhibit I built these constructions from leftover millwork from historic houses that my sister Jamie Howard has renovated over the last thirty years. Some of the molding comes from houses that are over a hundred years old. The wood is beautiful clear pine, and when I cut it I found it was really hard and dense, so hard that I had to replace the old miter blade. The constructions are based house forms and architectural elements and some of these constructions are finished with encaustic, which is a mixture of bees wax, damar crystals, and pigments. I am looking forward to expanding on this idea and developing both content and technique.
I also plan to take a class from David Clemons at UALR this fall in Small Metal Fabrication and maybe take a Spanish class.
I am excited to be teaching again at Artist Inc. for the Argenta Arts Foundation this fall. It is an eight week class designed to help artists develop their art business. Anyone who is interested in signing up can visit the Argenta Arts Foundation web site.
Who do you consider to be big influences on you and your work? It doesn’t have to be another visual artist. I know for myself several of my influences come from practitioners of different art forms.
Music and poetry are big influences. I like it when its edgy and visual like the music of Tom Waits and the poetry of Frederico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda.
How big of an impact is music on your creative process? Many of the artists I know have to listen to music while they create. If it’s a big part of your process, what do you listen to?
Oh my goodness, this is a huge topic for me. My earliest and best memories are of music. Mom and Dad loved and bought all kinds of music and it was always playing. Mom played the classical music and Dad had this really cool jazz collection of old 78s. In the early sixties we listened to lots of folk, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Doc Watson and Jimmy Rodgers the Yodeling Brakeman who recorded in the 1930s. My Father did a painting of Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer that I own. He painted lots of musicians.
When I am in my studio I Iisten to lots of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison. I also listen to world music especially Latin music, like Vicente Amigo, Radio Tarifa, Cafe Tacuba, Juanes, Mana’ and the traditional Mexican stuff.
Thank you Dominique! This is a great interview!