Maintaining A Connection To Your Environment - 10 Questions with Mixed Media Visual Artist Crystal Floyd
Visual artist Crystal Floyd uses found and re-purposed objects to assemble mixed-media curiosity cabinets and three-dimensional installations. Floyd approaches her work in a manner that is similar to an anthropologist. She exhibits an inquisitiveness for the natural world and how we as humans interact with it. Her creative process incorporates elements of art, history, and science, with research, collecting, and cataloging playing integral roles in the development of a piece. Floyd's curios, dioramas, and displays allow viewers to examine and mull over individual components found within the work, while the pieces themselves represent a larger narrative.
As an artist, Floyd has the ability to create scenes within her work that are completely familiar yet entirely foreign at the same time. Vintage images and items, succulents, insects, and objects found on the shorelines are elements that are present throughout her work. These materials create feelings of wonderment, nostalgia, and impermanence.
Floyd's connection to the natural world extends beyond her work as an artist. She is currently working to launch a new business venture, Lazy Jay's Tour Company. Through this endeavor, Floyd will share with others the places and activities that she believes make this region uniquely special. Tour packages will vary based on an individual's interests and abilities, but patrons can expect to visit natural springs, lesser known beaches, and both the state and national parks that are sprinkled throughout Northeast Florida.
Floyd's studio is located inside CoRK Arts District, where, in addition to being an artist, she fulfills the role of event coordinator for the building's three gallery spaces. Floyd also serves as the curator for Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, which has locations in Riverside, San Marco, and the Beaches. If you are a fan of the IFC series "Portlandia," you may be familiar with the skit "Bad Art Good Walls." The skit parodies how the walls of coffee shops are often decorated with art that is, well, bad. Floyd's keen eye and understanding of aesthetics create a pleasing visual landscape within the coffee shops that complement Bold Bean's brand and the specific design of each location.
Floyd's work was recently part of a group show titled "Roadsides and Skylines," which exhibited in Orlando's Avalon Gallery from July 20 through August 12, 2017. Artists who participated in the show contributed pieces that were personal expressions of what it means to them to be a Floridian. Floyd also recently contributed work to the Jax Makerspace exhibit titled "Altered Objects."
10 Questions with Crystal Floyd
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
I use objects that appeal to me as a collector and am always on the lookout for source materials, often already owning many of the pieces needed. By the time a sketch is made, the idea is almost fully formed in my mind. It helps the work immensely now that I’m more relaxed and trust my instincts, regularly stepping away from a project for a few days so I can have a clear mind and objective eye when I do my final edits. Other than when working on my ongoing personal projects, the pressure of a deadline is a top motivator and seems to remove any hesitation or self-doubt that may be present otherwise.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic endeavors?
It’s something that is not an optional part of my makeup, I feel like having this outlet is therapeutic and don’t want anything to take away the enjoyment that goes into creating artwork. It has given me a thirst for knowledge that seems to be never ending and can be applied in other areas, I want to learn a variety of mediums to have the tools in my toolbox to easily express myself and lessen any obstacles in completing projects.
My hopes are that by consistently producing quality work and honing my skill set, more opportunities to expand my artistic practice and take on projects that will challenge me to evolve as an individual will present themselves. At first, I found it hard to deal with assumptions that are made when you put work on display, but have since decided that, as long as I’m doing things that make me happy and that I feel proud to be involved in, there is no control over what people choose to perceive so there’s really no use worrying about it. Any artist is putting themselves out on a limb when they reveal their work to an audience and it can be a really scary thing unless you remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place
How do you define success in what you do?
Staying true to my aesthetics when creating artwork rather than attempting to predict what may be “on trend” gives me the greatest satisfaction. Rather than the end goal being sales, I find more pleasure in connecting with folks who resonate with my work and reach out to discuss their relationship to it. Trying to please everyone will never happen and the people that connect with my work seem to really get where I’m coming from and have a common objective. I’ve made many friends and allies in people who were first introduced through my artwork and I’m grateful to have their support.
To me, connecting with someone on a personal level when not actually present is a remarkable thing and feels like true success. It really has little to do with any fiscal gain.
Does your process begin with a keystone piece, around which you craft a supporting narrative, or do you have a narrative in mind for which you then find pieces to reinforce?
It can happen both ways.
Sometimes, I may find an object that almost seems to have a halo around it, like it’s trying to tell me what it should be. I know that sounds a little witchy, but it’s just an instinctive thing that happens and I can pretty much envision the finished piece right then and there.
Other times, I have an idea for something that I want to bring into existence and then I’m on a scavenger hunt until all of the components are found. Either way, it’s a lot of fun, I try to keep my eyes open for inspiration at all times.
If you were to pair your visual work with an audio component, what group or solo musician do you think would best emphasize the feelings you seek to communicate through your work?
This is a hard one!
My friend Jeremiah Johnson scores music and had a band called Wudun that was one of my all-time favorites, so as far as locals go, I would say him. I’d love to see what he would create in response to my work and I’m always impressed with his ability to translate a concept or idea into sound.
When I’m working, I mostly listen to old psych/garage bands and heavier music that allows me to relax, so bands like The Kinks, The Seeds, Black Sabbath, and Sleep are really inspirational in their simplicity, nostalgia and ability to evoke emotions through sound so they would probably be my first choices.
How has your environment and being a resident of the sunshine state influenced your work?
I’m a Florida native and have always had an intense connection with nature and our unique ecosystem, collecting flora and fauna during my outings for as long as I can remember. It seemed natural to use these elements in my work. Because it is such an integral part of me, I feel pressed to urge my audiences to take the time to pay attention to their surroundings and demonstrate care in their day to day interactions with them. For example, Jim Draper’s “Feast of Flowers” exhibition at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens was particularly inspiring and caused me to closely examine how my efforts as an artist could serve a mission of conservation and awareness of our natural resources. He’s been a valued mentor / friend and has led me to realize the greater role of art in our communities.
What do you feel an individual can gain by exhibiting a healthy level of curiosity about the world around them, as well as a willingness to interact with that world?
Maintaining a connection to your environment is vital to having a healthy perspective of your place in the world. I started Lazy Jay’s Tour Co. to create interest in conservation through immersive experiences and introduce people to all of the treasures that Florida has to offer. A lot of people are unwilling to step outside of their comfort level when it comes to exploration of the outdoors and I’m hoping I can give them that drive.
What is it that initially attracted you to the preservation and adaptive reusing of objects and materials?
There is a lot of beauty in items that are so often considered “trash” or “by-products." I like the idea of giving them a second life in a different form. It seemed almost tragic that these things are so easily overlooked, so it’s very rewarding to be able to reimagine the potential of a particular object and turn it into something new that can be appreciated.
You curate all three Bold Bean Coffee Roaster locations. What have you gained through this experience and what do you look for when selecting artists to exhibit?
My friend Clay Doran and I started curating the basement of the Haydon Burns Library downtown over 10 years ago, before they turned it into the Jessie Ball duPont Center. It was so fun to be able to find threads that connected artists and provide a platform for them to display work in a space that wasn’t a traditional gallery. In talking to visitors, I learned that a lot of people who aren’t artists themselves or involved in the art community are intimidated when attending more traditional exhibitions. I’ve since curated shows in other alternative spaces and CoRK Arts District.
Zack at Bold Bean asked me to take on the walls in their shops about two years ago. I enjoy giving artists a high-traffic space to show their work where they receive all of the proceeds from their sales, Bold Bean compensates me for my services and I like working with them because they understand the value of having fresh artwork for their business. All three locations are booked out 6+ months ahead of time and there is a waiting list of great people to draw from who have shown interest, alternating mediums so there is a high contrast between shows.
What would you like to see in Jacksonville as an effort to support and grow the city's creative economy?
There is a disconnect in the arts here and I would like to see more collaborative efforts take place within the different mediums, i.e. dance, visual arts, literary arts, performance, etc. There have been great strides to remedy the issue but we aren’t quite there yet. We should be working with each other rather than competing, I think that support starts within the community and wouldn’t go unnoticed.