Artist Feature: Claire Akebrand
About a year or so ago I kept noticing that a lot of the furniture I was liking on KSL (Equaivalent to Craigslist) was sold by a person named “Claire.” I saw that she had an Instagram account where she sold her midcentury furniture and art. I’m always saying that I love original art because it was lovingly made by someone. I sensed that about Claire’s art. She’s not an artist for anyone else. She’s an artist because she loves it.
I reached out to her to be featured to give people a source for affordable modern/mid modern art to hang. If you like midcentury colors and style I really love her. I emailed her a list of questions and I had planned to edit them down into a post but I liked her response so I’m just going to publish it all for you.
What is your name or shop or website? Where can people find/buy your art? I’m Claire Åkebrand and I sell mostly through Instagram (@claire_things) but I also have an Etsy shop: akebrandc where I list some of my paintings. If you're in Utah, you can stop by my garage and check out my work, but I happily ship items too.
Any background information you think is interesting about you or your work: I was born in Sweden, and grew up in Germany. I moved to Utah when I was 14. Moving from Europe at such a formative age, shook up my whole life. The culture shock I experienced in Utah permeates all my writing and painting in one way or another. All my work radiates some level of disquiet or disruption.
It took me about eight years to get used to Utah, but now there is no place I'd rather live. It’s surreal landscapes provide my daydreaming mind and wandering imagination all the space they need. I was a poet and novelist before I became a painter and I have been creating images with language for years. I just started painting last summer, 2018.
Now that I'm painting I can’t believe that it’s possible to make physical things with real colors made of physical materials on physical canvases or paper and I’m not the only one who can see them. I haven’t given up writing but I’m basking in the tactile joy that is painting. I don’t think one form of art is superior to the other. But each have joys unique to them. My art is inspired mainly by European artists like Matisse, Picasso, Klee, Fernand Leger, and Henri Rousseau.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by open-ended questions, uncertainties, and subtlety. To borrow the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I'm moved by "all things counter, original, spare, strange" (from his poem "Pied Beauty"). The artists I admire the most are those who seem to pull images from their deepest inner well without worrying about catering to some audience.
I'm in love with this quote by David Lynch: “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” When artist’s are true to their own visions there will always be humans who will recognize their own humanity in the work of such artists, no matter how abstract. This humanity is uplifting no matter how dark the content.
I'm not inspired by art that sugarcoats life. Nothing is more dispiriting to me than that kind of falsity. If art doesn't honestly portray the human experience, it is harmful. That doesn't mean all art has to be realism but it has to feel true to life, to our fears, our joys, our sorrows, our dreams.
What is your art background? How did you get into art? Do you have formal training? What's your medium? Like most people, I was an artist when I was a child but as a teenager writing became easier than messing around with visual arts—cheaper too. I returned to painting in 2018 (20 years later) when I was desperately looking for ways to cope with my depression and some unexplained symptoms I was having. As sentimental as it might sound, painting (and therapy) pulled me out of depression and the future began to look brighter and more hopeful. I have so many things I can’t wait to paint. It’s the best feeling.
I don’t have any formal art training in art (I have a BA in English and I'm working on an MFA in poetry) though I should say that I grew up in a house full of artists. My mother was an art teacher and my parents have never been anything but encouraging of my creative endeavors. My father used to take us to art museums when we were kids growing up in Germany. He taught me how to appreciate art without having to understand it, just to take it in without a forceful reaching for facts or trying to solve works of art as if they are riddles.
I think a lot of people shy away from art because they think there’s a hidden meaning that needs to be unveiled in order to fully appreciate it. That’s such a shame. I wish schools, our culture, were better at teaching us how to approach art because if we can learn how to appreciate mysteries, life in general would be much easier. Imagine if we didn’t require all events and things of life to make sense—if we instead welcomed the chaos we cannot control.
I mostly work with acrylic, and often do mixed media. I really enjoy doing collages with vintage magazine cutouts--the colors are wonderfully faded and the paper is soft and beginning to disintegrate. I like giving these magazine images another round of life in a different context.
Are there any pieces that have specific meaning to you? "Woman Washing Her Hair" has a special meaning to me because I painted it in a depressed and anxious frenzy as I was trying to find ways to deal with some immense stresses in my life.
I have always believed that a work of art is smarter than it’s artist and knows what it wants to be and what it needs to be, and that the artist better follow it’s instructions than her own outlines. With "Woman Washing Her Hair" I learned that art is more compassionate than it’s artist. In my painting, the woman appears to be embracing herself. I didn't plan to paint an embrace and only recognized the gesture after.
I think my painting, my subconscious, wanted to embrace me, wanted me to know that I deserve compassion from myself, especially from myself. "Woman Washing Her Hair" now hangs in the home of a wonderful woman who herself has encountered difficult things and who seems to sense that same message in the painting. We need to show ourselves kindness. The painting strangely brought us to tears as we talked in front of it. That kind of connection with another person through a piece of art is so beautiful to me, much more meaningful than any work of art.
Thank you to Claire for being willing to be featured and for sharing your art with us! If you want to see more of her work there’s more on her Instagram (@claire_things) and her Etsy shop: akebrandc