INTERVIEW: Fairmont-based Artist Carmen Niichel

I’m really excited to present this interview with Carmen Niichel, who is now exhibiting at Morgantown’s The Diamond Shop Gallery thru Feb. 28. She shares with Boss Babes about her favorite thing about being an artist in West Virginia, advice for aspiring WV artists and more…

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BB: How did you end up in West Virginia?

C: I grew up in Maine, went to college in Connecticut, graduate school in Indiana, and moved to West Virginia when my husband got a teaching job at Fairmont State University about three and a half years ago.

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BB: How did you come to be an artist?

C: My Dad is also an artist, and because of him I loved art as far back as I can remember. About the time I turned 13, I decided to get serious and decided I would go to college to study painting. To that end, I tried to paint or draw almost every school day, which was facilitated by the fact that I was homeschooled and could have art lessons with my Dad. I loved this, and my later studies, and never looked back.

BB: How did this exhibition come about? Why is this important for the Morgantown community?

C: Fortuitously! I have two toddlers at home, so I don’t currently have much time to make art, but for the past few months I’ve been going to a weekly life drawing session at the Mon Arts Center. There, I happened to meet Patrick Bayly, who runs the gallery program at the Diamond Shop, and he needed an artist to exhibit. Both the life drawing session and the Diamond Shop are wonderful resources for local artists that I knew nothing about until recently, so I think it’s important both that Morgantown has these resources and that more people get to know about them.

BB: How do you think the environment is for the arts in Morgantown? How do you think it could improve?

C: I’m not a great person to answer this question since I haven’t lived in the area long (also I live in Fairmont, not Morgantown) and I am just starting to learn about the arts environment here.  However, I have learned that there are opportunities if you’re willing to dig a little, and there are clearly many interesting, creative people around.

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BB: What is your favorite thing about being an artist/creative/curator in Fairmont?

C: I like the landscape of West Virginia, and nature and the way we look at it through art is always interesting to me.

BB: Any advice for young artists in the area?

C: Go to Museums! WVU has an art museum, and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh is world class and not far away.

    Finding people who share your interests can be difficult, but seeking them out is so worth it. It’s a joy and inspiration to have friends you can talk with about painting/film/poetry/whatever, and who can introduce you to artists and works you didn’t know about.

   Finally, don’t be afraid to be bored. Making art can be stimulating and exciting, but when I’ve taught art, students often get discouraged when a particular painting or drawing seems to require hours or days (or years!) of work—it’s almost impossible to stay excited about what you’re doing that whole time, and that is 100% OK. Sometimes studio work is a slog, and requires slow and steady effort just like any other kind of work. Sometimes you’ll want to give up, but sometimes you’ll step back from a piece that was very little fun to make, and realize it was very much worth it.  

BB: What would people be surprised to know about you?

C: Hmm, tricky one. Sometimes people are surprised to find out that my favorite drink is bourbon…

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High: New Paintings by Carmen Niichel, opens Friday, Feb. 9, 6-9pm at The Diamond Shop Gallery, 320 High Street, and is on view thru Feb. 25. More information find The Diamond Shop on Facebook.

Sally Deskins is an artist, writer and curator. She currently serves as Exhibits & Programs Coordinator with West Virginia University Libraries. She also blogs at femmesfollsnebraska.tumblr.com. Wanna be interviewed? Email her at sallydeskins@yahoo.com.