After a traumatizing experience with an art instructor, Annie Stromquist almost completely eliminated art from her life. However, it was not long before she left her college-administration career and returned to pursue her passion.
In school, Stromquist always had a strong interest in art. “Then I went to college,” she said. “I was going to major in art, but it was a small school. The main art instructor was a man who liked to yell at his students and intimidate them. I was really intimidated. So, I was like, ‘I’ll show him!’ and I quit. Really, I showed me.”
Stromquist found a different direction and decided to major in sociology and social work at the University of Iowa. “Then, I went into college administration, working with students, and I loved that,” she said. “It was great, but there was always this feeling on the inside that I wanted to do art more than I could.”
After 10 years, Stromquist left her job as an associate dean at Occidental College in Los Angeles and studied at California State University of Long Beach for a masters of fine arts in printmaking. “I’ve been an active artist ever since,” she added. “I feel really good about that.”
The mediums Stromquist uses are collage, prints, drawings and mixed-media works on paper. “I’m definitely a two-dimensional artist in the way I see things,” she explained. “My aesthetic sense is two-dimensional. Paper is so reactive. When you work with paper, it’s such an active part of the whole process, and it helps me see what I want to do. So,
anything I could do on paper, I do.”
Stromquist has a similar fascination for experimenting with her artwork. “Usually, I work with a lot of traditional methods, but I also use a lot of nontraditional methods,” she said. “I like working with processed materials. That allows me to see the structure and create something spontaneously within that structure. And so, I have to develop my eye so that [I] could see what works and what doesn’t [work].
Another artist that intrigues Stromquist is contemporary artist Zarina Hashmi. “She just works on paper– similar to me,” Stromquist said. “Her results have such a richness, and her work is minimalist. I like minimalist, and [she just has] an aesthetic aliveness that is very inspiring to me.”
Stromquist also incorporates minimalism as well as formalism in her pieces. “I like to work with color and shape and position in abstract ways,” she explained. “Often, I’ll translate things into unrecognizable shapes and composition.”
For 13 years, Stromquist has taught print-making courses at Long Beach City College. For her students, she wrote a book titled Simple Screen Printing: Basic Techniques and Creative Projects, which is available on Amazon.com . “As a teacher, you give a [demonstration] for how to do some things, and if you’re good at it, it looks easy,” she explained. “But it’s not as easy when you are doing it for the first time. The students often forget what to do first or how to do various things. And so, I think a text that shows pictures step-by-step is very useful, and that’s what I got to do.”
Stromquist enjoyed writing the book and hopes to write another. “I’ve been toying the idea with two topics. One would be of a next-stage screen printing or experimental screen printing because I’ve enjoyed figuring out new ways to make stencils for screens,” she said. “Another might be to deal with the whole idea of creativity. What is creativity? How to you make it work in the visual arena but also other arenas?”
Currently, Stromquist is working on multiple series. One is titled The Memory Loss Series. It is dedicated to her mother who experienced memory loss before she passed away a year ago. “It is probably one of the first times that I worked with a serious topic,” she said. “The work that is going to be a part of that series is far-ranging. [I’m] working with poinsettia leaves, but now I’m working with series of numbers or numbers that are out of sequence. And I’m working with clock faces– things that kind of have an association with time, memory issues.”
Stromquist is also making another series called The Big Head Wars. “In that series, I’ve cut linoleum blocks into shapes of armies on horses,” she explained. “It goes in terms of how war was conducted on horses long ago, but also in terms of the artistic look that is very much an old-Eastern style.”
Stromquist says that she likes to work on multiple projects at once because she has so many ideas. These ideas are kept in a journal of thoughts and a box that she fills with cutouts of newspapers and magazines. “It’s wonderful to have more ideas than you have time for,” she said. “There was a summer years ago where I was really exasperated. I couldn’t seem to get ideas or move forward. It was really frustrating.”
Although Stromquist loves to sell her art, there are a lot of pieces that she prefers to keep. “I wouldn’t want to see them go,” she said. “So, I decided, at some point, I wouldn’t release pieces [until] I was ready. [Artists] are all different.”
In the future, Stromquist aspires to show her series and make her name more public. “I have been kind of quiet in recent years or kind of a hermit in showing my work, out of choice,” she noted. “I want to get my own voice back [and] strengthen my own voice rather than worry what other people might think. And so, now I am ready to go out into the world again.”