Interview from the Kansas City Collection Catalogue 2012-2013
By Elizabeth Kirsch
Linnea Spransy’s paintings are on a mission all their own. Layered ribbons of paint and dense microbial patterns across her canvases, evoking deep time and inexplicable quests. In some works, skeins of color droop over dark crevices as if waiting to be sucked into a black hole.
One of Spransy’s fiercest paintings, Widget, is quite minimal but is conceptually true to her artistic concerns. Composed of a Moebius strip of wicked looking blades floating in a space of heavenly pink space, it alludes to the ancient paradox “Concordia oppositorum,” or the agreement of opposites such as love, hate; black, white; yin, yang. In her art, Spransy seeks a state of non duty as she simultaneously celebrates various pathways. This chronic tension explains the dynamism that underscores her entire oeuvre.
Since childhood, Spransy has studied intensely what she calls “two very robust bodies of knowledge,” science and religion. Art has allowed her a segue between these different systems.
The oldest of five, Spransy grew up in Oregon with her family who were members of the Jesus People movement. Her father was a musician and played with the first Christian rock band. She rode on a tour bus with her family, musicians and tutor to various towns where protesters invariably gathered, denouncing the mix of rock and roll with Christianity. “By the time I was eleven,” she recalls, “I was living a whole-hearted lifestyle around art.”
Her family settled in Winsconsin, and Spransy was home schooled while also working with artists in her studios. By 13 she was “fully trained in anatomy” and creating sophisticated figure drawings. She received a full scholarship to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and subsequently the prestigious MFA program at Yale.
Between Spransy’s first and second year at Yale, her art changed, literally overnight. “I experienced a spiritual transformation,” she says, “a recognition of why we make art; it was a moment of honesty… I wanted to fo something that would make my heart race.” Her skill at figuration was obvious, but “it was no longer challenging me. I wasn’t being forced to invent something.”
Spransy began exclusively exploring abstraction. As free-wheeling, unanticipated and deliberately jittery as her paintings became, they were a; constructed using “rules”.
“Every piece I make,” Spransy asserts, “is a manifestation of a pre-determined scheme –a system of small limits with a clear beginning and end… I write out a recipe composed of what I call modules [a combination of number and letter forms]; it’s very time-consuming. The only total freedom I allow myself is with the color choices. The system and I will make something, but there is also a high level of uncertainty.”
Ultimately, Spransy believes, her rules reinforce the notion of free will. “In the midst of so much certainty, can I still find a surprise? There is always,” she notes, “consistent astonishment at the end.”