Grace Windey has a background in sculpture and installation art, but puts concept before medium in all her work, giving her a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to making. She also could eat her weight in pierogis. We loved getting to know this energetic creative, and you will too.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do):
I consider myself a sculptor first and foremost, but I have a very interdisciplinary practice – I’m always playing with new mediums and techniques. The most consistent element across my work is language – everything revolves around concept and text.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
I was born in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for about 6 months until my parents made the shift to sunnier skies and moved our family to Greenville, South Carolina. I have relatives up north and down south so as I’ve gotten older I’ve travelled all over the States. I went to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC after graduating from high school, which wasn’t a big move – I was only about an hour and a half from home there. When I decided to go to grad school at the Royal College of Art in London, I made the first big move of my life. I didn’t even have a passport! I had travelled a lot, but I had never left the US and it was quite a leap of faith. I packed my whole life into two suitcases and flew from a fairly small town to one of the largest cities in the world – talk about culture shock! I lived in the UK for 2 years and during that time met my partner, Jason, a UK expat/Kiwi convert and we decided to make an even bigger move after I graduated from the RCA. We moved to New Zealand, to my in-laws’ lifestyle block outside of Te Puke, BOP. Yet another huge change! From small town USA to a bustling international city to rural farm life on the other side of the world – I never imagined I’d make it this far from home.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
For the first time since uni, I am pursuing my art practice full time. I recently left my day job behind so now my days go a little something like this:
First, I get up and make coffee. Essential step! Then, I go out to my studio and “warm up” (journaling, sketching, tarot, etc.) After that I take a break to respond to emails, check to do lists, etc. Once I’ve gotten all the admin out of the way, I make, make, make until I can’t make anymore! Lastly, I clean the studio because nothing stresses me out more than starting out with a mess in the morning. Basically, I’m living the dream!
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
I have fond memories of music in my childhood. My mom always used to love John Denver’s music. It wasn’t my favorite as a kid, but nothing makes me feel more homesick on a summer’s day than driving with the windows down and blasting “Sunshine on my Shoulders” or “Rocky Mountain High”. My dad, on the other hand, used to play Sinead O’Connor constantly, and I hated it! I like some of her songs now (but don’t tell my dad – I’ll never live it down). I still have vivid memories of dancing around at my Grandma Eunie’s house to Liza Minnelli’s “Liza with a Z” and I can still hear my Grandma Sandy singing ,“I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck…” while cooking. My teen favorites were “Zombie” by the Cranberries, “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks and “Why Can’t I?” by Liz Phair. They are all still classics that I jam to in my studio.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
Jenny Holzer has always inspired me. Her “Truisms” were one of the first pieces of art I ever saw that was outside the norm of what text could be. I opened my eyes to language art and its possibilities, it changed my practice completely.
Marina Abramovic is my art hero – being introduced to her performance art really opened my eyes to the broad scope of what art could look like, and how art relates to the body. Her work is so uniquely provocative and interactive.
Lesley Dill has a piece where she has photographed herself with the words: “I am afraid to own a body, I am afraid to own a soul,” written on her neck. She is the bridge between language, body, and performance. I find that union so inspiring.
Looking back at your teen-age self: what one sentence describes that person?
Following the road map, foot on the gas, but going the wrong way.
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
Oh, this is a tough one! Pierogi – they’re a beautiful, fried Polish dumpling filled with cheese and potato, or meat, or sauerkraut, or sweet fruit and ricotta… they’re divine. I could eat my weight in pierogi. Although I would be devastated to never eat tacos or pizza again! Oh, it’s too hard to choose!!
What are you planning for 2021 that nobody knows about yet?
My biggest news at the moment is I’m in the process of building a new home studio! I’ve outgrown my current space and I’m so excited for this change. Once it’s completed I have big plans for the workshop… This is my best kept secret, and I don’t want to give too much away, but you may see this artist at a market near you soon… Stay tuned!
In one sentence, can you define art?
For me, art is the pursuit of self-understanding.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
My favorite movie ever has got to be Four Weddings and a Funeral – the speech at the funeral gets me every single time. I love a movie where you can have a good bittersweet cry. I LOVE About Time for the same reason. It’s another rom-com and it has the most poignant message about making the most of life – and boy, do I cry! I know a sob-fest isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love a touching movie that really dives into the intricacies of the human experience. Really, is anything more cathartic than a good cry? On the other side of the spectrum, I’m also addicted to really dark crime shows – Hannibal, Mind Hunter, Dark, The Sinner – the more twisted the better. Hannibal is such a beautifully crafted show, its cinematic, layered, dramatic. I love a show you have to pay attention to, that you can get lost in. I could go on all day, I’m a huge movie buff!
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
I always thought I would move back to the States at some point, but now that I’m here in New Zealand, putting down roots just feels right. With that said, there are so many places I would love to visit in the future. New Orleans is at the top of the list, it’s an incredibly fun, historic place and I can’t wait to show my partner what a great city it is. I also have my sights set on New Mexico, California, and New York. As for outside of the USA, I can’t wait to see all the European greats and Japan. Let’s just say it’s a long list!
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Just do it! Everyone you know will tell you not to, they will say you’ll never get a job and that you won’t ever make a living, but that’s not why you go into this business. Become a creative because it feeds your soul. Become a maker because nothing feels more right. Being an artist is a vocation.