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Examining Andrea Durfee’s “Archetypes”

Art is often defined as a creative process—the process of rendering one’s own original and imaginative visions into a physical, tangible, and visual medium. However, art simply cannot be defined by this one definition. For it encompasses myriad styles, aesthetics, mediums, processes, and tastes. More importantly, art functions as a process that fundamentally unites us through a shared experience. Regardless of the piece, each viewer brings with them their own unique field of experience, allowing the piece to take on multiple interpretations and meanings. However, varied as our interpretations may be, art is a unifying force that allows us to connect to these varied parts of ourselves and ultimately, to each other.

Andrea Durfee is one local artist whose work is beautifully representative of the multifaceted nature of art. Growing up in Rochester, NY, Durfee was taken with the artistic world at a young age. Her early fascination with the artistic experience soon inspired her to pursue and obtain a B.S. degree in studio art/printmaking as well as an M.S. in Creative Arts Therapy from Nazareth College. She describes her work as “a focus on fluid and organic figures and archetypes” by ultimately embracing “change, duality, and the cyclical nature of life.” Before her collection goes on display at the Brainery this Friday, we had the chance to catch up with Andrea and got to know the artist behind the “Archetypes.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you first become interested in art?

I’ve been interested in art and creating since I can remember. It was always part of my everyday experience; nurtured by my family. My parents always kept me supplied in pencils, paints, sketchbooks, etc. My father would take me to the Memorial Art Gallery and we would walk through the rooms and “pick your favorite” in each room and discuss that piece. My grandparents’ house is still a place of wonder for me, with artwork everywhere you look from the walls to the candlesticks, dining table, you name it—its spectacular and impeccably curated! 

What would you say influences or inspires your work? Is there a particular artist or period of art that you admire?

I am fairly eclectic when it comes to artists I admire. Winslow Homer, Gustav Klimt, Egon Shiele, John Singer Sargent, Robert Marx, to name those that immediately spring to mind. 

Much of my inspiration, however, comes from dance and written word. I grew up a dancer and often when I feel emotion is to imagine that as movement. I’m absolutely in love with Sandra Cisneros’ writing. She has the most beautiful and evocative way of storytelling. Often stirring seemingly contradictory emotions. Pain and joy, hope and sorrow, all the wonderful terrible things about experiencing life.

Give us a glimpse into your artistic process—what is that process like and does it differ between printmaking and watercolor?

Regardless of medium, I always start with a basic framework/sketch. Sometimes its thought out, often times its just impulse. After this point the process is intuitive. I let the watercolor run and settle as it wishes, and try not to exert too much will on it. Then returning with pens, I ink over the watercolor as shapes jump out at me. With reduction block printmaking, it requires a bit more mental gymnastics and backward thinking, but that intuitive movement of carving and inking remains intact. I never hold myself to the original plan.

You’ve often described your work as a focus on fluid and organic figures and archetypes. Is this aesthetic always something you desired to represent through your work or did it naturally evolve over time through your creative process? 

This aesthetic emerged naturally from my work. I’ve always been focused on how we are connected to our environment/earth/universe/each other. Putting name to that focus is fairly new.

How would you describe your collection “Archetypes” that will be showcased at Rochester Brainery through October?

“Archetypes” exhibits two separate time periods and mediums in my life. One room will hold reduction block prints from 2009, and in the other, watercolor works completed this year. Both collections reflect my integration of personal archetypes and organic forms.

We admire how the colors in your pieces seem to establish a particular mood and tone. How important is the selection and integration of color in your artistic process?

Color is quite important, though so subjective. In all my work, I expect others to come with their own life experiences, cultural perspective, and ways of interacting. The color is important to me in the moment it is chosen, but it is not selected as an attempt to convey a particular emotion to the public.

Your expertise is in both printmaking and watercolor. Do you prefer one medium to the other?

No, I am in love with both! For me, printmaking takes more patience. Carve, ink, line it up perfectly, press, wait to dry, repeat 4-5 times. You are using your total brain to create. Watercolor allows me to wander and get lost.

Have you experimented with any other mediums?

I have experimented with oil, ceramics, and have used acrylic for some work. I keep coming back to these two.

We noticed you’re also a Co-Owner of Louelle Design Studio—“a collaborative design studio offering artisan invitations and paper goods”—based in Rochester, NY. How has that experience been and how does it differ from your own personal work as an artist?

It has been such a fun adventure to be on with my sister-in-law and co-owner, Ashley Durfee. We love the opportunity to collaborate with others and continually have new projects and design challenges. It is much different from my own personal work because it is for the client. Its taking a vision the client has for their event design, and translating that onto paper. It is wonderful to start from scratch with each design, and try to
create something truly memorable and reflective of their style.

 We saw you have an M.S. degree in Creative Arts Therapy from Nazareth College. Has art ever functioned as a therapeutic process for you? In you opinion, how can art be used to help others in a therapeutic capacity?

It has absolutely served a therapeutic process throughout my life. Art is an amazing tool for personal exploration and understanding. There are many thoughts on how best art can be used therapeutically, and I think for everyone that approach may be different. For me, creating in itself is a therapeutic release and mode of processing and communicating experiences. Some of the most powerful moments I have witnessed, however, are in the group exploration, sharing, and discussion of personal creations. Those looking for more information on Art Therapy, or to find a local licensed Art Therapists, the Art Therapy Credentials Board website, is a great resource.

Do you have a favorite piece? 

That’s always changing. I definitely have a handful of favorites for various reasons, and they usually represent a particular event or point in my life. But their meaning and what I see in them often changes each time I look at them. I love that about art.

Make sure to join us this Friday, September 4th from 6-9pm as we welcome Andrea Durfee’s collection, “Archetypes” to Rochester Brainery! Can't wait to view her collection? In the meantime, check out her website and follow Andrea on Instagram.

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