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Issue 5: Ava and Chloe


Where do you go/what do you do to find peace of mind?

Well, usually when I don’t have peace of mind, I feel far from myself or the person I wish to become. I dream a lot about my future self because in my mind she embodies every characteristic I wish to have. Kind, personable, full of gratitude and present are the ones that come to mind. The poet Mary Oliver has been my sun for a while now. Showing me light in places I didn’t even know there could be light. When I need to feel settled and reminded of the beauty of the world, I read her work. Everyone should find something accessible to them that has the power to remind them of who they truly are or wish to be. Being outside or even sitting by a window can also do the trick. Nature has a keen way of reminding us how small we are. And also, how wonderful we are.

Do you feel that art has an impact on society?

I think when creating art, we are tapping into one of the most beautiful parts of our brain: expression. The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with it. Being good at expression through art can bleed into how you express things outwardly in life. Love, anger, guilt, remorse, enjoyment, etc. But when you put something out, something is bound to come back. In art, it may show up as criticism. Therefore, when you learn to express, you must then learn to listen. Feeling + expression + listening (not just opening your ears but actually listening) = change. How one can change their art has the same formula as how we can change society.

3. How has your art style changed since you’ve started creating?

My poetry used to be very long and very specific to my situation. I’m not saying one’s poetry should connect with everyone, but at least a few people. (I also understand that not everyone makes poetry for the outside viewer. It may just be a practice for one to put their beautiful thoughts somewhere). Nowadays, my work is more abstract. I would no longer write: “I can’t make up my mind, it’s so annoying” but rather, “those white uncontrollable waves, they move towards the warm sand, then go right back towards that deep pool. Make up your mind!” I do this for a few reasons. 1) It adds imagery! 2) It’s still implying that I can’t make up my mind but maybe it’s about someone else not making up their mind. A good poem should be able to have multiple implications and layers, and the reader gets to decide what that is for them. They decide how deep they want to go.

4. Is there an environment in which you feel the most comfortable when creating?

Every poem I’ve written I’ve wrote while alone. Fascinating things begin to happen when sitting with yourself. Finding comfort in your solitude opens doors in your mind you didn’t even know existed. This process leads to good poetry and a good life.

5. How do you define success?

I don’t believe success should be seen as a total end result. There are things I had to do to be successful in high school. But there are also things I must do to feel successful today. At this point in my life, to be successful I need to maintain the love and connection I have with those in my life at the moment. And also try to build an attraction to the pieces I’m working on, because then I’ll put my all into them. But overall, I define success as keeping your house in order, to the extent that you can, and that will get expressed outwardly naturally. Figure out what rules you want to live by and turn to them in times when you feel clueless about what to do. I have a list of my 9 rules I turn to, and they’ve never let me down.

6. What have “critics” said about your work? * (And how do you handle criticism?)

I only absorb criticism from a few people. Those I feel understand what it is I am trying to do with my poetry. And those who I’ve expressed my relationship to my future self with. Me as a person now, my future self, my photography, poetry, mindset, it’s all interconnected. Those who understand that are the ones I’ll take criticism from. After making my poetry website live, I’ve had such beautiful responses. I’ve found that many different age groups can connect with my work too, which feels surreal. Someone who has had 60 years of life experience can relate to the insights and feelings of a 19-year-old girl.

7. Do you feel that it is important that artists learn realism before learning other styles of art?

Art isn’t just drawing, painting, sculpture, and ceramics. It can be decorating a room, wood carving, putting outfits together, taking photos of dogs, giving someone a hug, hosting a lemonade stand. Art is one of the broadest words in my vocabulary. Anything where expression is present is art to me. So no, I don’t believe you have to learn realism before you learn other styles of art.

8. What is some advice you can give to new up and coming artists?

When it comes to writing, don’t show people your work when you first start out. If you want constructive criticism, read books on how to write poetry. This way, the criticism has little chance of making you feel down. Because it’s just in a book, in your hands, taking in the information with your own eyes. You are in control. This helped me feel confident in my writing. Also, read poetry! I’ve found that my writing is a mixture of Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke, Billy Collins, and me. It’s still my own, I’m just taking the certain spark I enjoy in their writings and using it to create my own. Creating my own voice.

9. Where do you see yourself taking your art in the future?

I’m known to pick up a hobby, get really good at it, then move on to a different craft. But I know I’m my mind that I can come back to the hobby if needed. I just hope writing poetry is different. And so far, it has proven to be. I’ve put a lot of energy into my work, with creating my website, hand making and binding a physical poetry book full of my work, re-reading poetry books, and even answering all these questions. Since I’ve started writing, I find I connect with people better. If they read my work, they see inside my head, which is incredibly vulnerable. They usually end up showing me what’s in their head too. I hope my art continues to aid in my connections with lovely people. And whether that helps me acquire a job writing poetry or if it just helps me connect with one person, both I will be immensely grateful to experience.

10. When creating a new piece, where or what do you start from?

With poetry, the first line or stanza will enter my mind. Sometimes due to what my eyes are looking at or what my brain is focusing on at the time. I know if I sat down at my desk with the intention to write, searching for what to write about, I could do it. But I never want writing to feel like a chore. I’d rather have the idea pop in my head at random moments because then I have no choice but to write it down. I’d go mad if I couldn’t express it through a poem. So, I suppose before the poem enters my head, I stay curious and present with what is going on around me. Then the poem will undoubtedly come.

11. Does music help you find ideas to create a piece?

In the least cheesy way possible, the music created outside helps me to create a piece. If the mourning dove sings right when I sit down outside, or if the Norway Spruce’s branches are dancing in an unfamiliar way, surely there’s a poem in there somewhere.

Find Ava's work at


Chloeana Merchant’s work focuses on the impact of the digital age on our consumerist habits. She does this by abstracting the figure within a landscape as well as through isolating and representing our daily landscapes. Through this the viewer can understand the absurdity of their lifestyles. Merchant uses found materials, such as secondhand fabric to reinforce this rebellion against capitalism. Through her work she hopes to instill a sense of intimacy, and community. By using ubiquitous and even banal imagery her work escapes the individual to represent a greater social body.

How did you get into creating art?

I have been creating art my entire life but never really considered it as a career path until college. When I started college, I was actually a math major, and I was planning on minoring in art but then I took a class with Brian Elder. From then on, I became really interested in the conceptual side of art and I began to take my art seriously.

Where do you go/what do you do to find peace of mind?

To find some peace of mind I go to sit beside the Chippewa river and draw or write. I feel most at peace when I am in nature, and I can be completely alone.

What advice would you give people who are a newly becoming artist?

I would tell them to just keep thinking about art and making art. Even if you are making stuff that is completely different than what you traditionally do, it is so important to just make and to keep thinking about art. Even if it is weird or stupid or banal, even if it is hardly making at all it is important to keep practicing art.

Do you feel that art has an impact on society? *

Of course. I think learning art history and the power that lies in representation really exemplified this for me. Art impacts the way we interact with the world, we model ourselves after art, and understand what is desirable through art and even more we understand through the lack of representation what is undesirable. Art represents the larger power structures in our society, and making art can challenge this or it can abide by these systems and strengthen them.

How has your art style changed since you’ve started creating? *

My art was very figurative before this past year. Now, it is abstract and sometimes the figure is represented through the alteration of an object such as my Bedside Piece.

How do you define success?

I think I define success by how well I am able to support and establish community. My goal is to have an artist commune that would support young artists with housing and food.

Do you have an artist mentor? Or were you self-taught? *

I was self-taught until university. Before coming to Central Michigan University, I had no art classes. The BFA committee here really helped me to improve my work.

What was your biggest inspiration when you started creating art?

When I started creating my biggest inspiration was Alphonse Mucha.

What’s your favorite time of day to work on a new project or art piece?

I work a lot in the evening, and around dusk always feels like the perfect time to paint.

Describe your aesthetic viewpoint.

This is a difficult question because I think it changes a lot. At first, I wanted to make things that were beautiful, but then my art became something to express discomfort. My work should not be a comfortable couch to sit on, like what has been said about Matisse, I think it is more a structurally imperfect chair that crumples under your weight. I love this sense of imbalance and fragile structures. I want it to feel like my art is disintegrating before the viewer’s eyes. I want it to feel like there is not enough, that it is an imprint or an essence but never a fully realized thing.


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