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Art Buff: Shasti O’Leary-Soudant

UNRELIABLE (S)PACE (2013) collaboration with Kyle Butler
UNRELIABLE (S)PACE (2013) collaboration with Kyle Butler

Where are you from originally?

New York City. I’ve lived a pretty itinerant lifestyle since I was four, but when people ask me where I’m from now, I say Buffalo. I’ve lived here for nine years (!), longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else.

What is your medium?

That’s a tough one. I will try to make anything out of anything. I’ve pretty much done them all at one time or another.

How has Buffalo influenced your work?

Buffalo has been a huge influence, in the sense that I didn’t actually consider myself an ‘artist’ when I moved here. I used to call myself a ‘creative professional.’ Over the last nine years, I’ve slowly gotten to know the people in the art community and every single one of them has energized, galvanized and inspired me. I guess the biggest impact was deciding to go to grad school for Visual Studies at UB. It completely changed my life.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My husband, my daughter, our friends. Books, frank conversation, other artists.

Name an artist (or more) that most inspires you?

Oof. Right now? On the world level, I’d say Rebecca Horn, Gerhard Richter, James Turrell…on a more local level, Kyle Butler, with whom I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with more than once, Ani Hoover, who continues to reinvent her relationship to color, Dennis Maher, with his obsessive urban vivisection…these people stun me regularly. There’s a tremendous amount of talent in this town. It’s humbling as hell.


What is your preferred subject matter?

My subject matter is always people, but they are not always what’s depicted. I’m trying to create opportunities for unique experiences for them, and their reactions and interactions are the matter that I’m trying to get at.

SEX TIME DECAY: 1000 CUTS (2011)
SEX TIME DECAY: 1000 CUTS (2011)

How do you feel you can best advance to the next level, or are you most happy where you are now?

I’m incredibly happy right now. I don’t know of any other way to advance anything anywhere than to keep scaring the bejeesus out of myself, and keep working as hard as I can.

What is another medium that you would like to learn? Or that you have already learned?

Music is deeply meaningful to me, but I’m not very good at it, and that’s okay. Songwriting and singing are a great place to put your mental crap, so I’ll be perfectly satisfied to be an impassioned amateur musician for the rest of my life.

Is there a purpose to your artwork?

Yes. To give anyone experiencing it a particular sensation they couldn’t find anywhere else. I love making people ever so slightly uncomfortable in a way that still makes them smile. It’s a very specific reaction I’m shooting for.


How often do you work on your art?

Well, every day, if you count thinking about it. I had a very prolific classmate once who told me a pretty hilarious thing: “You make one piece every six months! That’s not art!” But he went on to say that once he’d sat inside one of my sculptures for a while, he “kind of got it.” I wasn’t offended, really. I actually laughed pretty hard. Different artists function VERY differently. It takes me a long time to conceive of, sketch, design, engineer, troubleshoot, and finally execute what I want to make. It’s definitely not a quick process. For me, it’s like a full-on slog through oatmeal.

What or who first prompted you to venture into the art world?

Ben Van Dyke. He’s a graphic design professor in the Visual Studies department at UB. But that’s a really long story. Essentially, he’s responsible for me getting my MFA. I will always be grateful to, and slightly angry at, him for that.

Have you been schooled in art? Are you planning on attending art school? If so, where?

I got my BFA at SUNY Purchase College in 1991, and then my MFA at UB almost exactly 20 years later. It was a two day difference, I think. Weird.

Preparing for BALLOON GODS (2012) collaboration with Kyle Butler
Preparing for BALLOON GODS (2012) collaboration with Kyle Butler

Where is your favorite venue in Buffalo to exhibit?

I will always love Big Orbit. It’s a beautiful blank slate. My first solo show was there, and I hope to exhibit there again.

Is there a gallery in Buffalo that you would like to show your work in, but haven’t yet?

I would really like to someday have a show at Hallwalls…and maybe one day, many years from now, if I’ve managed to earn it, at the Albright-Knox.

Where did you learn your craft?

I have been picking things up and mangling them into something else ever since I can remember. It’s something that I can’t not do. Over the years, I’ve picked up a lot of different skills, hoping that one day I’d put them to use. I like using the particular medium that will best express the idea I’m trying to get across. Sometimes, I’ll have a vision of something that I don’t even know where to begin to figure out how to make. So I’ll learn. Doesn’t always work out.

MORSE TOTEMS (2013) Photo by Jan Theun van Rees
MORSE TOTEMS (2013) Photo by Jan Theun van Rees

What are your strengths?

Humor, empathy, and a strong work ethic.

What are your weaknesses?

I get overly ambitious with my time and spread myself too thin, and then wind up spazzing out, leading to weakness in all sorts of other ways…

Name one person that you would like to sell a work of art to?

The person reading this.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

Doing what I love and living slightly outside of the mainstream, for the perspective that it enables.

What’s the worst thing about being an artist?

The financial insecurity of living slightly outside of the mainstream.

Where is your current/next show in the city? Dates? Opening night?

LET THERE BE LIGHT (INTERFERENCE) is at the Burchfield Penney now. The closing party is this Friday, November 8th. I’m hoping to sign and gift all of the red and green interference portraits I’ve made to the people in them. It’s first come, first serve, especially since each of the pictures has a participant superimposed onto another participant they may not know personally. I hope to see everyone who’s used the photobooth!

What is the title and theme of the show/s?

The theme of LET THERE BE LIGHT is that our experience is literally colored entirely by context. It offers people an opportunity to see how their eyes and minds play tricks on them every day.


See more Art Buffs…

Phil Durganangela wisniewskichris galleycandace keegantom webbnicole johnsontara sasiadekveronica krugerlarry allendana saylorsean maddenpaul rybarczykbeth pedersonrobert schulmanpaul klonowskibetty j. pitts-fostercarol case siracusealejandro gutierrezpaul alicojohn sargentdeborah stewartpat pendletonkristin damstetteralana adetola fajemisinsarah and john cozzemerarob hopkinsjennifer seth-ciminielisabeth strongmichael mulleypatricia schwimmermikel doktorjerome greenbergelizabeth leaderjacqueline welchdoreen debothjoe casciocandace mastersiris kirkwoodlukia costellomichael morgulisjulie leatherbarrowchris libertimichael marariandaniel rodgersbruce adamsken paynechristina cookeelise anne brooksfrank cravottajackie albarellagary meliusmelissa campbelljeff quigleynancy moranvincent alejandropatti harriseileen graetzrita argen auerbachdianne bakernorine spurlingmargaret raabingrid luongojoseph stanekcandice morrisbill battaglia,melissa linton
If you are a local artist that has a current or upcoming show in the city, and are interested in being featured on Art Buff, please feel free to send an email request here. If you are the curator of an urban gallery or art studio that has an upcoming opening and would like to have an artist featured, please contact us prior to the event so that we can email questions in time for the show.

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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