Kristine and Colin Poole: The Topographers of Mythology
Exclusive Interview with Kristine and Colin Poole, 2nd Prize Winners of the Yasha Young Projects Sculpture Award, 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize by Addison Devereux
The funny thing about duos, is that the sidekick tends to be just as memorable as the main character. In many iconic duos, its hard to tell who is who sometimes and the two distinct individual become one inseparable team. Such a conjoining of personality and imagination can produce extraordinary results and and the dynamic duo of sculptors Kristine and Colin Poole is no exception.
Two artists, husband and wife, creating together with style and composition that matches one another brings to life these exquisite pieces. Diving into mythology and folklore, mapping the intricacies of the human figure, and making the intangible tangible, this prodigious pair produce yet another stellar sculpture for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize and capture the second place award with their entry “Dove Dreams of Flying”.
Without diving too deeply into your past, tell me about the first piece you created that helped encourage you to pursue art.
K: One of the first finished pieces I can remember was a drawing of the circus I did when I was in first grade. From edge to edge, it was chockablock with the wonder, delight, and vibrancy of this magical world with its fantastical characters and animals, as seen through a child’s eye. My mom entered my drawing in a Shrine Circus competition, and it was awarded Second Place from 1400 entries – solid encouragement for a youngster. I won a pair of walkie-talkies, which in the days long before cell phones, was most splendiferous.
C: I’ve been creating for as long as I can remember, certainly well before age five. My grandmother made several bronze sculptures of me as a very small child sculpting in a corner of her studio. I’ve never been anything but an artist.
Colin, much of your work includes renderings of mythical creatures. Tell me about the importance of this theme to you.
As a child, I was invited to work in the studio of an old Greek icon painter. For the many years that I sculpted in his studio, he delighted me with tales of the Greek myths. These formative moments were a thread linking storytelling and art that has since woven through the tapestry of my creative life.
Expanding on this foundational love of traditional world mythologies, for the last several years I have been writing an original mythology featuring characters, creatures and stories of my own imaginings. These tales come to life through the series of paintings and bronze sculptures that I am concurrently working on. As the stories give rise to art, the art also inspires the tales.
Inspiration and curiosity go hand-in-hand and we are inspired by all sorts of people and things that cause us to marvel. Influence, though… to be able to see the thread of someone’s inspiration blossoming with your own voice into your own work is quite extraordinary.
Kristine, what inspired you to use the skin of your creations as a second canvas? How do you plan out some of the ways you have text wrapped around your figures?
From some of my earliest childhood sketches where I filled the contours of animals with their names through high school where I concealed text within the woodgrain in drawings of interiors, I’ve long been smitten with words.
At university, I thought a lot about the stories we weave and the power words have to create and define the realities we live in. I watched people and wondered about our ability to “read” someone’s story in their face, their expression, their posture. These reflections led me to inscribe text on the surface of my sculpture – the stories about how we come to be who we are. The patterns simultaneously obscured and highlighted the forms of the body; the juxtaposition of a visceral reaction to body language with a cerebral response to text added layers of meaning and interest. My new fascination was born.
I choose the patterns for the text instinctively based on how the nature of the story works with the body position. Some patterns symbolize the blossoming of the self, others create feelings of confinement and may call to mind ancient human practices like tattooing or scarification. I use the design motifs to draw attention and lead the eye around the sculpture.
The piece you submitted is under both your names. Can you explain the process of collaboratively constructing this piece? How much planning was involved beforehand and how did you handle any conflicts that came up with the creative process?
We often know the conceptual direction of a collaborative piece when we start. One of us will have an idea and, like two kids building a sandcastle, a tumble of excited conversation follows where we throw in anything that comes to mind, refining the concept. The process on Dove though, was quite fluid. We both loved the pose but didn’t originally have a direction beyond that.
Kristine began with the figure. As Dove progressed, she looked so contented, confident and swept up in a daydream that she pretty much told us she was on a mind flight. The bird and bird wings then came to be quite naturally a part of her. As to how our creative process develops, we have total trust and confidence in each other’s instincts, talents and skills so if one of us feels strongly about a particular element or adjustment, we go with it. The pieces are stronger for that dynamic.
We are fortunate that our individual voices accentuate and harmonize with each other.
How often do the two of you collaborate? Do you find your styles diverging or converging the more you work together?
It varies. We each have our own individual bodies of work but we share the same studio space so whether we’re both physically working on a piece or just bouncing ideas off each other, most of what we do has something of both of us in it. We both have our own creative visions, so while we do influence each other, we maintain our own distinctive styles. We are fortunate that our individual voices accentuate and harmonize with each other.
Who or what has been the single most important influence for your work today? Who are some of the other artists that have influenced you?
Inspiration and curiosity go hand-in-hand and we are inspired by all sorts of people and things that cause us to marvel. Influence, though… to be able to see the thread of someone’s inspiration blossoming with your own voice into your own work is quite extraordinary. We hope you can see the influence of our art heroes and heroines in our work: Bernini, Carpeaux, Carrier-Belleuse, Hyatt-Huntington, Bouguereau, Bonheur, Gentileschi, Mucha, to name a precious few.
K: My biggest influence is, without a doubt, Colin. He is the hero of my life: my teacher, my inspiration – the influence of his creative spirit, generous being and loving encouragement can be seen in everything I do.
C: Outside the immeasurable significance of each other, some of my greatest influences have been in the realm of the life I choose to live. My Greek friend, Christosomos’s lifestyle, sweetness of heart and loving relationship with his wife, had an enormous impact on my path and choices. The precision and generosity of one of my first mentors, Lou Stovall, is manifest in much of what I do today. My Grandmother, the renowned sculptor Una Hanbury, was the foundation for my gestural sculpting textures and “all art, all the time” approach to my days.
How do you see your art changing over the next five years?
K: Going bigger (and smaller) and better! I’ve been working out the details for a new series incorporating several sculptural installations for some time. I’m looking forward to bringing them into fruition and partnering with organizations to present them to the public. We’re developing several new series of smaller scale/miniature works including a jewelry line that we’re super excited about. And, of course, Colin is going to publish his book!
Why did you enter the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize?
Beautiful Bizarre Magazine has emerged in the last decade as one of the world’s premier champions of dynamic and imaginative representational visual art as well as creatives of all kinds. In our experience, they promote artists and creative works with a level of devotion that few others have matched, contributing immeasurably to the global art community. We are epic fans and want to do what we can to encourage that drive and energy. Part of promoting the work of Beautiful Bizarre is to participate in the Art Prize competition each year.
What do you feel you have gained from this experience?
There is so much; where to start? The Beautiful Bizarre international art community is populated with an enormous array of crazy talented artists from all provinces of the creative rainbow. To have our work selected for recognition in this group is an incredible honor that validates and encourages our creative directions. The increased visibility and connections created by Beautiful Bizarre’s marketing and promotion of our work is exceptional. Being invited to create works for the curated shows inspires and stretches our imaginations. The prizes are generous and helpful in developing our art practice.
Would you recommend it and encourage others to enter? If so, why?
Yes, absolutely, and we do. For artists new to competitions, there are many benefits to entering: it is an opportunity to look at your work critically and assess what you think is the strongest. It is a chance to up your game in photographing and presenting your work, especially if it’s a competition for publication. And, if you get in, it provides great exposure and promotion. Your work will come to be associated with the level of work of other artists in the competition.
For artists familiar with competitions, they are a great way to keep you moving forward with your work, setting goals and continually challenging yourself to new and greater levels of technical and creative mastery. If you’ve entered and not been selected as a Finalist, remember that the juries change each year – it’s not unusual to not be selected for one competition and be an award winner in another. Most of us have stories like that. The benefits are well worth entering each year.