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#Troublemaker

Sharing reflections from
extraordinary women

Meet The Artist, Zoe Dufour

Zoe warmly welcomed us into her studio where we were immersed in an artist’s playground and did not want to leave. We were surrounded by stunning sculptures, paintings, and sketches with soft smells of paint and plaster. Classical music echoed through the rooms where focus and concentration was apparent. We had moments in between to chat with artists and to observe the silent bustle of those working.

We chose to photograph with a local artist because we wanted to capture the essence of why we exist - to celebrate our individual and collective career journeys as women and how the process can free us. We make, unmake, and remake to discover ourselves and an artist's journey perfectly captures the tangible outcomes of such a complex process.

Like Proust, we also believe “artists are people who strip habit away and return life to its deserved glory.” We are thankful to Zoe and The Grand Central Atelier for welcoming us to their sacred space, allowing us to admire their work, and reminding us of life’s beauty.    

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

II was born in Bankok, Thailand, where my parents met in the Peace Corps. I grew up first in Arkansas, then in Northern California in a predominantly agricultural community, moving to New York in 2009 for school. I had gotten into Grand Central Atelier, a small art school filled with incredible artists as teachers and run with only studio classes that were focused on representational art in the classical tradition. I've since stayed in the city for work, the community I've found, and the access to great art. My work is very influenced by my education and I suppose I would describe it as naturalistic representational sculpture. Right now I am focused on portraiture, and I'm interested in using it in combination with plants to evoke relationships we have with nature. 

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WOULD BECOME A SCULPTOR ARTIST?

In 2013, I started a figure sculpture class in school, taught by Jiwoong Cheh. I immediately loved it - the physicality and tactile nature of the discipline felt like a natural fit, and helped me engage in a way I was struggling to while drawing and painting. Eventually I found myself spending more and more time sculpting, even skipping my other classes to get more time in the sculpture studio. It seemed like the right choice to faze out of painting completely and commit to sculpture. Cheh really made it seem like a viable career, which made me feel comfortable making that decision. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

More broadly, nature! Albert Einstein said,

 “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”

and I really believe that’s true. I don’t think there is a higher design than what we see in nature. While studying from life, I want to understand the subject in an almost abstract way, as a series of form and volume relationships. I am inspired by this push to set aside preconceptions in order to see more accurately, and that this accuracy is a form of beauty in understanding itself. The cultivation of self-reflection required to try and become aware of my preconceptions has become my metaphorical lens to view life, and cyclically informs my work as sculpting influences my perceptions of life. I am very inspired by other artists from many disciplines, both past and present, and by feeling a part of succession of craft. 

WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS?

Bernini, Michelangelo, Walton Ford, Tom Robbins, Nayirah Waheed, Frida Kahlo, Chie Shimizu, Vladimir Kanevsky, Johnson Tsang, and Eudald De Juana come to mind. I also really like 18th century botanical illustrations and Hellenistic sculpture.   

WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED ALONG YOUR CAREER JOURNEY?

How critical it is to be disciplined (work in progress), and to try to plan through what I want to achieve.  

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?

Being in a community of artists that are extremely inspiring and dedicated is so helpful. Looking at beautiful things. I also try not to be too hard on myself, which can be difficult in a career that requires me to be constructively critical of my work. Ultimately, I really just love it so it’s enjoyable to put the hours in. 

HOW DO YOU RECHARGE?

I like rock climbing, and getting outside, as well as just drinking tea wrapped up with a book. Spending time with good friends and family is also important.  

HOW DO YOU THINK WOMEN CAN HELP OTHER WOMEN?

I think we can help each other through sharing opportunity and experience, and being supportive and kind in whatever capacity we have. As well as judging each other less, and working collaboratively versus competitively with each other. 

WHAT DOES BEING A TROUBLEMAKER MEAN TO YOU?

It makes me think of someone who does not conform - there is an element of mischief to the word. I relate to it working in an unconventional field, valuing the freedom of my career over the stability of a more conventional one.  

IF YOU COULD BRING 5 OBJECTS FROM YOUR PAST INTO YOUR FUTURE CAREER JOURNEY, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

I am always wearing a silver chain given to me by my mother, so I would bring that; my favorite mug, pliers from my great-great-grandfather, any book by Bill Watterson, and my very small portrait sketch so I could see where I started.  

    Follow Zoe @saypience