Stacey Rozich: Within Without me

Stacey Rozich’s Within Without Me opened May 2 at Roq la Rue Gallery in Seattle. The 22 watercolor and gouache paintings on display cast the artist’s trademark colorful, convivial monsters in a new light—or new darkness, rather. The series is about “the light and the shadows of faith, devotion and the power of lies” and illustrates the misadventures of drunkards wielding shotguns, decapitated monsters with demonic masks and spiritual elders hoarding piles of blood money. Blackbirds lurk in many of the images, waiting to devour the dead. For the week leading up to the show, Rozich painted a huge mural on the virgin walls of the gallery’s new space in Pioneer Square (Roq la Rue recently moved from its decade-old location in Belltown). Curious about the origin of this series, I asked Rozich a few questions about the work. - Amanda Manitach, Seattle Contributor

Stacey Rozich | Collection Day At The Shrine, 2013, watercolor and gouache on paper, 11 x 7.5 inches. Image courtesy of Roq la Rue Gallery.

Amanda Manitach: Where does your folkloric imagery come from?

Stacey Rozich: The foundation of my aesthetic grew out of curiosity of my father’s family background. They are Croatian by origin, but are all based in Detroit. I wasn’t really clued into this heritage when I was growing up—I only knew I had a confusing last name that even my closest friends still mispronounce. My father took me to a Tamburitzan dance and music performance when I was maybe fifteen and I fell in love with all the embroidered motifs on the garments and the textural patterning I saw on the performers’ costuming. It was so Old World and completely unfamiliar and exciting; the idea that my family were of this tradition was intoxicating.

AM: How long does it take you to finish one of these paintings?

SR: It all depends on size. Small pieces can take only a few hours, but some of my biggest pieces (22” x 30”) take two or three days tops. My craft has strengthened and I take much more time now to get the minute detail precise.

Stacey Rozich | Can I Kick Back?, 2013, watercolor and gouache on paper, 14.5 x 22 inches. Image courtesy of Roq la Rue Gallery.

AM: Do you freehand everything?

SR: Absolutely. I hardly ever use a ruler, except when I do small structures. In Within Without Me I had a few shrines factor into the scenes and those were a lot harder to draft without the aid of a straight edge. All of the patterning is hand done and, while I try to get a really anal precision, I’ve grown to appreciate the small imperfections that are created by hand.

Stacey Rozich | How Many More, 2013, watercolor and gouache on paper, 14.5 x 22 inches. Image courtesy of Roq la Rue Gallery.
Stacey Rozich | A Coward Strikes From The Back, 2013, watercolor and gouache on paper, 11 x 7.5 inches. Image courtesy of Roq la Rue Gallery.

AM: Are all the monsters imaginary, or do they come from actual mythological sources?

SR: A few years ago I used more literal translations of folktales, but I’ve grown away from that and taken the general ideas with me to create my own narrative. I’ve become more fascinated with the role in history folk monsters have taken: as a sort of an imagined scapegoat for the unexplained tragedies and epidemics of cultures past. It goes back thousands of years, this idea that one could explain away a disease by blaming an imaginary figure who could absorb all the confusion and anxiety people have because of lack of understanding and information. What usually goes along with this fear is the invention of stories handed down through generations, portrayal in art....or my personal favorite is the performance art of folk monsters in lavish costuming. This takes place in carnival-type parades or performances where the cultural demon is literally exorcised to the great delight of townspeople—an exciting display of revenge.

Rozich installing mural at Roq la Rue. Image courtesy of the artist.
Rozich installing mural at Roq la Rue. Image courtesy of the artist.

AM: Why do you think your images—even the dark ones—resonate so much with viewers? People seem to love it.

SR: Everyone has memories of folktales from their childhood. Whether it be the wacky stories of Dr. Seuss or folklore passed down from immigrant grandparents, people have an inherent relationship with storytelling. Another thing I find resonates with viewers are elements of pop culture I work into my pieces. Pop culture is a great equalizer and most everyone has some memory, however peripheral, of American media and advertising. Putting baby blue Nike Cortez’s on a bandana-patterned gun-toting mercenary was my way of tempering this heavy idea of impending violence. Those nostalgic touchstones were a great way for someone to tell me, ‘I used to wear those exact shoes in seventh grade!’ It somehow lightens the mood.

Stacey Rozich | It Takes A Village, 2013, watercolor and gouache on paper, 22 x 30 inches. Image courtesy of Roq la Rue Gallery.

AM: What's next for you?

SR: I have a lot of commercial work coming up, which is turning into a stepping stone for me to channel my work into more mediums. I’m very excited about that. I’m starting to branch out into different avenues like ceramics, textiles, limited edition wearable pieces, books and video work. I don’t have any gallery shows coming up, but that is always subject to change any minute. It’s a flexible world I work in.


Within Without Me is on view at Roq la Rue Gallery through June 1, 2013.

Stacey Rozich is a Seattle-based artist and illustrator. Her work draws inspiration from a broad spectrum of cultural references, building scenarios pulled from a realm steeped in indigenous and contemporary symbolism. She studied illustration at California College of the Arts as well as graphic design at Seattle Central Creative Academy. She works in watercolor and gouache.

Amanda Manitach is an artist, writer and curator based in Seattle.

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