Interview with Artist Rory Scott

As artists we are so often impacted by the community of people around us.  In my own struggle to make a living and make art, I don't think I spend enough time giving gratitude and recognition to the artists around me who have impacted my work and who I am as a person.  I am going to attempt each month of this year to recognize one of these people.  I hope that you will discover them. 

Rory Scott embodies the characteristics of a great friend- she is loyal, a good listener, supportive, encouraging, and she knows how to make you laugh when you need it most.  We first became friends in college, and she was one of a crew of girlfriends that encouraged me to make art and participated and attended my early shows, during a time when art felt like a baby bird in my hand.  She is the type of friend that will agree to have a college radio show with you on a Saturday at 8am, where you basically talk about your Friday night between songs, half asleep, because she knows it will be a good adventure.  She is the type of friend that will give you a couch to crash on at her house, and then go on an all night escapade with you through Chicago where you end up dancing at a bar with your cab driver.  She is the type of friend that when you go thrift shopping together, you want to follow her everywhere because she has incredible taste and she will find things for you to wear that will look good, and you didn't even know would be your style.   She is the type of friend with whom, you will stay up talking 'til three am and not have even realized how late it was.  
This woman has been encouraging me and my art, with generosity, since day one.  I think everyone needs to experience a friend as good as Rory Scott.  And it is with these great accolades that I share her art with you.  She has been laboring away in her apartment in Chicago, working as a designer, mother, and artist.  She has a stunning body of work to share with you, I hope you will read my interview with her below.

Creative Journey

Sarah Paulsen: We met when you were in journalism school at University of Missouri, Columbia, you later went on to the Art Institute of Chicago to study Visual Communications, and then went to work as a designer for many years.  How do you think your work trajectory has impacted the art you make?
Rory Scott:  Having been a designer for many years inspired me to work as hard for myself, as I worked for others. We often make more of a commitment to our employers than we do to ourselves.  I decided to apply the same level of commitment that I give to an employer, to myself.  I also decided that I would create work that I like. As a designer you create work but rarely get the final word in how your ideas turn out. And I am really excited about having full creative control, from start to finish with this body of work.

 SP:  What do you collect?

phonograph.jpgRS:  So, collect is a word that has connotations of definite intent behind it. I am not a collector in that sense, but I pick up things that I like. I enjoy finding Victrola records, old technology, slides, vintage clothes, anything that is older, interesting and that grabs my attention. But I am a haphazard collector, my family gives me things and I go to thrift stores and if I see something interesting, I pick it up. But I don’t generally set out with intent to find something specific. 
Although, I did do so with the vintage viewers and projectors that I use to display my work.

Current Art Work
SP:  What are your inspirations right now?

RS:  I am inspired by so many things, it’s really difficult to narrow it down to just a few. An overarching inspiration is the magical experience of childhood. Everything is so vivid, bright and whimsical, and there is this slight distortion to the world, that is really beautiful too. It’s kind of like when you have a few beers on a sunny afternoon, and everything starts to pop and the colors are more vivid and saturated.  I wanted to capture that feeling as well as the distortion and haziness, that time adds itself.

When I recall magical moments of childhood I think of PBS—the wonderfully animated station and production company identities, dioramas, Star Trek, old sci-fi films, fantasy book covers, glitter, View-Masters, negatives, colorful glass and lights. And of course projection, I loved projection. I had a Show’N Tell machine and that was just something that really stuck in my memory, the feeling of viewing something and having the light color the room. It was was like you were stepping into a scene. 


On the flip side, the present and the future have a strong impact on my work, as well.  I have a vested interest, in the what it will mean to be human in the near future, the impact that technology will have upon humans and our relationships. My interest in artificial intelligence, transhumanism, the singularity, robotics and quantum physics, play a key role in my work as well.

SP:  What are some of the processes you are exploring to make your art? 

RS:  I’ve been exploring various methods that deal with light, dimensionality and movement. I love using mediums that involve light because light has this energy to it—it’s something that we as humans and as constant device holders, are all very much tapped into.

Most recently, I have been animating and that’s been the most exciting part of the journey so far. I’ve enjoyed the evolution of creating static work and experimenting with how to recreate the experience within an animated 3D space.

Outside of animation, I use vintage projectors, slide viewers, view-masters, which all rely on film to present much of the work. It’s the juxtaposition between the old and the new that emphasizes the element of time travel. The constant movement between the past, present and future. Through the incorporation and use of vintage toys & crude screen technology of the past it all comes full circle with something like Google Cardboard, which is just really amazing. 


SP:  I had so much fun looking around on your website and seeing all the different formats you made to experience your artwork.  When I look at the images and watch your animations, I am reminded of so many things: galaxies, art nouveau line work, sci fi., minimalistic forms meet baroque materials (glitter).  I leave with the thought that you are hoping to create little magical moments, akin to a planetarium show, using these nostalgic forms of experiencing art.  What do you hope the viewer experiences?  

RS:  Yes, all of those things. And I love that you picked up on art nouveau and baroque as being a part of the mix. I love ornateness, patterns and delicate line work. My love of 1960’s psychedelic posters, that reinterpret art nouveau along with OpArt are also something people may pick up on.

I hope that when people view my work, they are able to get lost in it. I hope people feel as though they are taking a journey into my mind as well as into the Universe. I want my thoughts and memories to be nearly indistinguishable in that moment, from their own.  Impermanence is a universal experience, and something we can all relate to. I hope there is something about my work and journey that resonates with others.


SP:  I also notice you talk a lot about using a hand made process to generate aspects of your final form, forms that you generate finally through photoshop.  I relate a lot to this idea with my animations, it is super important to me to first make things with paint and collage and animate them by hand before I bring in technology.  How do you find the balance between the hand made process and the technological intervention or manipulation of these forms?

RS:  This question just made me realize that I haven’t really said what the project is. It’s about many things, but the major themes are reconciling the passage of time, space, memories, the Universe and letting go. The final project will be presented as, 60 animated short films which revolve around personal diary entries made between 2010-2012.  The short films involve animating dioramas, constructed from photographs I've taken, and from elements that I’ve designed. I wanted to physically create surreal “sets” and place them within cosmic environments—to illustrate thoughts rooted in my physical reality, and render them as mini worlds within the universe of my mind.  I love what can be done with computer graphics but I have such an appreciation for good set design. There is something truly inspiring about creating imaginative scenes in real life and I wanted to recreate that.

So I spent years preparing, collecting, creating and photographing, elements that will be used in the final stage of my project. It has been a complete act of faith to spend so much time creating elements for long-term future use. But that’s how I work; I do one task at a time and move on to the next phase.


SP:  What do you like about glitter?

RS:  What’s not to like about glitter?! Aside from the mess… I love it, it’s so beautiful and alluring the way it sparkles and captures light. It’s like stars on earth and at the same time it can be so tacky. I remember the exact moment I fell for glitter. I was 5 and I received this handmade Christmas card from a classmate. It was a light blue construction paper card, with a silver angel pasted to it, adorned with generous amounts of silver glitter. Pure magic. I kept it for years, it still may be in my parents basement. A moment like that and your life is destined to change.

 SP:  One thing I noticed about your film Impermanence was the use of time lapse, documentation, and city forms, similar to one of my favorite films “Man with a Movie Camera”, but used almost in contrast to your intimate internal dialogue- how do you think living in Chicago has influenced your work?  What interests you about the intersection between cityscapes/time lapse and the spoken word?

Still from Impermanence
 Impermanence |

RS:  I have not seen that film but I am definitely going to have to check it out. So, I have been in Chicago for nearly 15 years and my relationship with the city has changed over time. It has changed over time because of where I live, my interest and what I do, because of how much I know about the city's layout. It’s really hard to get lost now and I like getting lost. During the last 6 years of my life I have lived downtown and I have taken up running, I bike and I am out walking all the time. And while I am out, I do a lot of thinking and meditating.  So there are these places that I have come across on my journeys and that in some ways have inspired me or that I have been drawn to and represent something special to me in my mind.

The time-lapse represents how I feel after living here for so long. At certain locations it’s almost like I can watch a time-lapse movie play out in my mind of how that location has changed over the years. Another reason I used time-lapse is to capture the immediate passage of time—all the things that go on and change while you stand still, physically and metaphorically. In the scenes that I am in, it’s about all these things but more so, it represents me taking a stand and being immovable in the face of fear. I sat and stood motionless while people walked around me. That made me confront my fears on so many levels. Literally standing and confronting the passage of time, confronting my fear of taking risks, to accomplish goals, confronting my social anxiety, confronting my fears of being a woman and having to be on constant guard, so many things. In addition to this, time-lapse film is so mesmerizing to watch and is oddly meditative. I felt like it was the perfect way to pair abstract thought with visuals, you can space out and let the imagery carry you like a current through time.

SP:  I know that you and I both share a degree of social anxiety, and this is something I try to be open about on my blog, what internal struggles did you have to overcome to make the work you are making now?

RS:  I am not the same person who started this project. And not just because so much time has passed but each step towards completing this project has made me confront my fears. This project has been an exercise in overcoming fear and acting on faith.

SP:  I want to be frank with readership about my own failures.  I remember when we met in college, one of the first things I asked you was if you liked The Jackson Five.  In my recent self work around white privilege, this memory made me feel as if I had projected a stereotype onto you, of what I thought an African American Woman may like. I later felt so thankful that we became close friends and you didn’t reject me for the stereotype.  I’m also glad you let me recently apologize to you, that gave me a moment to heal.  As I’ve thought about our friendship recently, I realize how your were the first “best friendship” I’d had with a woman of color.  When I think about that time, I didn’t think a lot about your racial identity, beyond I just loved you as a friend and was proud to have you in my life, in recent retrospect, I hoped that I’d let you be your full self, with me. 

So my question is, to what extent do you think your identity has played into the art you are making? To what extent do you think your identity plays into your current worldview?  

RS:  I want to start off by saying, you are one of my dearest friends and you have been for a long-time. I truly felt bad when you apologized. We were kids and you were just trying to connect. Growing up I was pretty much always the only minority in my classes.  And I experienced a number of situations where stereotypes were used to set boundaries and define our perceived differences rather than how we may connect. I think we all make assumptions based on what we can see when we are looking for ways to connect with others. I think I was more surprised when you grabbed my ice cream cone and just licked it. As an only child I wasn’t used to sharing treats—in that moment, I was truly shocked!  :D

My work is about my human identity rather than me belonging to any one specific group. Of course my demographics play a role in my interactions and worldview but that is not what’s at the heart of this project. What’s at the heart, is being human and seeing your life pass by and trying to figure out what to do with it. Accepting my inevitable demise and also the impending demise of mankind as we know it.

SP:  Ha Ha.  We did do a lot of sharing at my house. 
       I’ve recently been seeing a lot of a movement of work called, “Afro-Futurism”, would you situate yourself in this movement?

I wouldn’t say that I am intentionally aligned with that movement but there are definite parallels. My father’s Parliament and Funkadelic records definitely factor into my visual influences from childhood. The costumes, the wild illustrations the Mothership are things that I draw inspiration from.

SP:  In your piece “Impermanence” you reference almost losing your mother when you were a child, and how that served as an awakening for you about the brevity of time.  I’m curious now that you are a parent, how has that shifted your sense of time?

And my follow up question is, Cam and I are thinking about having kids- For my own information, how have you balanced being a mother and working artist?

RS:  Being a mother has reinforced how fast time can pass. It’s has also allowed me to witness how much a person can grow, change and learn in a short amount of time. It’s really a mind bending experience.

I’ve balanced motherhood, work and art by making lists. I can’t live or be productive without them. List clear your mind and make you accountable for your time and actions. I schedule everything I want to accomplish and anything that doesn’t get done, gets tacked on to the next day. I finish all my list.

I also learned that there may not be, abundant carved out chunks of studio time. You have to utilize every free moment to work towards what you need to get done. That’s why having a list is so helpful, because you can knock out short tasks with 15 minutes here and there.

Now that my son is older and loves art, we have also instituted family art time, where we all spend an hour or two working independently on a creative task during the weekend. It’s a great way to spend family time together and to get work done. It’s also a great way to teach my son how to set aside time for what he enjoys.

Drawing by Sebastian
SP:  Where can people view your art?
RS:  Currently people can see my work on display, in Chicago at CallisonRTKL. The work will be on display through the mid April.

SP:  What is coming up for you next?

RS:  I will be wrapping up the animation of my short films this year and plan to release them in 2017. And began work on my follow-up project which deals with the other side of impermanence, confronting and accepting the future.

Website |



Anonymous said…
Two of my dearest, most special sister friends, sharing a moment in time together, makes me wish hard I could have been there just to sit and watch this interview happen! I still could hear your sweet voices as I read this. I love you both and am so thankful this happened! Love, your Drea
Wander Full said…
Thanks for reading Drea! Love you too.

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