Photo by Nate Packard
“Art-making is ingrained in children from such an early age,” says Annalisabeth Craig, a local artist who will soon graduate from the University of Memphis with a degree in Art and Child Development. “You don’t have to teach kids much in regard to creativity.” Childhood is formative — nostalgia sticks from the moments we first realize our passions. What we’re introduced to not only shapes our path, but the way our minds operate. Craig, 24, is a testament to that. Colorful collages assembled from various mediums, her work utilizes abstraction to connect the moments that shaped her life. Craig’s art focuses on women, their home, and ephemera. Or, rather, items saved and memories stored that weren’t intended to be kept. “It is interesting to realize how subconsciously affected I am by my upbringing, and making work about that is hugely cathartic,” Craig says. Memphis magazine spoke with Craig about how creativity shaped her upbringing, and how she intends help children discover their passions.
Memphis: What’s your background and what medium do you enjoy working with most?
Craig: I had a very creative childhood, so I’ve always made things, whether it be drawings or sewing or painting. I took art classes throughout high school, and went on to study art in college. My favorite medium varies, but I definitely find great joy in assemblage and collage. I enjoy using multiple mediums to create work. Making art is so much more interesting to me if it’s a process of response between materials.
What’s your earliest memory of discovering art as a passion?
I grew up taking art lessons and classes in school, so art has always been a part of my memory. My most distinctive memory of that realizing art is something I have to do was in high school attending the Summer Academy at Memphis College of Art.
You just finished working at MCA’s Summer Art Camp. What aged children were you working with and what did you learn from the experience?
I worked as a teaching assistant with children aged 5-10, in painting, mixed-media, drawing, and pop art classes. This camp taught me so much about teaching and patience, and the importance of art in a child’s life. I was especially amazed at how self-motivated kids this age are while drawing and making things. There is great honesty in kids’ self-expression. They are completely themselves, and make art accordingly. This was greatly inspirational to my own work by remembering to just start working, because it does not have to make sense immediately.
You graduate from the University of Memphis in December. What are you studying and why did you choose it? How do you plan to apply your degree after you graduate?
I will graduate with a degree in Art and Child Development. I chose this degree because of a passion for art and kids, and a love for teaching. I plan to pursue a job in community art education and hope to one day create my own space for workshops and teaching art outside of the traditional classroom. I plan to pursue higher education in museum studies and art education.
Why do you think arts education is crucial to child development?
Art-making is ingrained in children from such an early age. You don’t have to teach kids much in regard to creativity. I think art education is important throughout the primary school years because making art teaches a lot about emotional development. Art gives kids a way to talk about things they might not understand yet. It provides an outlet for expressing how they feel, without relying on verbal development. Art also broadens perspective and deepens empathy, and teaching these things from an early age will provide better opportunities and relationships for kids in the future.
How do your life experiences appear in your work? And are there any particular life experiences that serve as a vehicle for your art?
Life experiences are a huge impact on my work. While I don’t necessarily make autobiographical work, much of my personal history goes into why I make what I do. This past spring, I completed a series of all the homes I’ve lived in while in Memphis. Each piece was informed by the colors, textures, smells and memories I have of those places. Furthermore, my work with women in the home comes from experiences growing up with a very traditional home life and a stay-at-home mother. It is interesting to realize how subconsciously affected I am by my upbringing, and making work about that is hugely cathartic.
What’s the biggest obstacle you find in creating your art?
My biggest obstacles are getting started and telling my inner-critic to hush. I think that’s why developing and maintaining a practice of making is so important. It’s a habit just like anything else. Once you know what to expect, it is much easier to dive right in every day without debate. Likewise, I am always trying to get my inner-critic on my side. I definitely fight fear-based thoughts of not being a “real” artist and questioning the importance of my work. However, I think this is a relationship that grows and develops as one matures as an artist. That voice will always be there, but I think the important thing is deciding how much say that voice has in the art making process. It’s a struggle for sure.
What is the most meaningful advice you’ve ever been given?
The one that sticks out is that no one is thinking about you quite as much as you think they are. Making art is a very self-aware practice and sharing what you make only strengthens that self-awareness. I’m definitely still learning about that balance with being in-tune and aware of the world.
You can see more of Craig’s work, or commission a piece, at annalisabethcraig.com.