The intersections of disability, accessibility, and art with Shannon Finnegan
Project-based Shannon Finnegan experiments with forms of access that intervene in ableist structures using humor, earnestness, rage, and delight. Some of their recent work includes Alt Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of image description. Shannon has done projects with MoCA Cleveland, Queens Museum, the High Line, MMK Frankfurt, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Nook Gallery.
In this episode of How Art is Born season 2, Shannon Finnegan and host, R. Alan Brooks, discuss the intersections of disability, accessibility, and art, and centering marginalized communities in their work to influence change.
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ABOUT SHANNON FINNEGAN
Shannon Finnegan is a project-based artist. They experiment with forms of access that intervene in ableist structures with humor, earnestness, rage, and delight. Some of their recent work includes Anti-Stairs Club Lounge, an ongoing project that gathers people together who share an aversion to stairs; Alt Text as Poetry, a collaboration with Bojana Coklyat that explores the expressive potential of image description; and Do You Want Us Here or Not, a series of benches and cushions designed for exhibition spaces. They have done projects with moCa Cleveland, Queens Museum, the High Line, MMK Frankfurt, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Nook Gallery.
Hey! This is Dele Johnson Producer and Editor of How Art is Born. Our interview with Shannon Finnegan is the penultimate episode of season 2! If you’ve been tuning in for every episode this season, thank you so much for your support. If you’re new to the show, welcome and I encourage you to go back and listen to the rest of our interviews with amazing guests this season and in season 1.Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you enjoy this interview with the talented Shannon Finnegan. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for our season finale, coming out on Wednesday, December 28.
R. Alan Brooks (00:00):
Welcome to How Art Is Born, a podcast from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, about the origins of artists and their creative and artistic practices. I'm your host, R. Alan Brooks, artist, writer, and professor. Today I'm joined by Brooklyn based artist Shannon Finnegan. Say hello.
Shannon Finnegan (00:14):
R. Alan Brooks (00:16):
Okay, so to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about who you are?
Shannon Finnegan (00:21):
Yes. I consider myself a project based artist, so I'm often kind of working with a set of ideas and thinking about a form for those to take, and then thinking about a new set of ideas and a form for those to take and kind of so on like that. I think about, I think sometimes there's this word, visual art mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I think my practice is related to the visual arts, but I've also been doing I'm disabled and I think about cross disability solidarity a lot. And I've been kind of inquiring a little bit about, about centering visual visuals in art making. And so I also like the term studio artist kind of someone who's yeah, in, in a room making some things <laugh>. but yeah, I, I think an important piece of my practice is that I'm disabled and that's something that comes into my work a lot and thinking about access and especially I think a lot of the forms of access in the world are come from these compliance models. So they're, they're this very kind of check a box minimum effort kind of approach to access. And I'm really interested in access that is creative and collaborative and an ongoing process and rooted in relationships and things like that. so that's something that I'm always, I'm often thinking about my work is kind of experimenting with different forms of, of access.
R. Alan Brooks (02:02):
Okay. Well, cool. So we're only gonna be as specific about your disability as you wanna be, but I'm most interested in how it works with your art. so for the purposes of that question, has the disability been lifelong or was it something that came sort of later in life?
Shannon Finnegan (02:20):
Yeah, I've, I've been disabled since I was born, but I think my awareness as like a politically disabled person or as, as a disabled person kind of understanding my experience as socially and culturally shaped was more in adulthood. I was, I was often I actually, I was thinking about this recently. I actually knew a lot of other disabled people growing up. Like kind of family friends and, and other disabled kids and stuff like that. But I wasn't really encouraged to make connections between our experiences. and I was, I was really pushed to try to be as kind of normal as possible. Oh, that's a thing.
R. Alan Brooks (03:06):
Yeah. <laugh>. Yeah.
Shannon Finnegan (03:09):
but yeah, I'll also say like, my, my disability is like mobility related. So it's mostly impacting kind of like walking, standing movement. Muscular, skeletal stuff.
R. Alan Brooks (03:23):
Okay. Well, so then we'll come back around to that as a theme, but I, I often ask like, what was the moment that art first spoke to you? And then also what was the moment that you knew that you wanted to create art? And for some people that moment is the same moment. For some people it's different.
Shannon Finnegan (03:40):
I think. So I grew up in a pretty creative household. there are kind of artists and creative people going back, like my grandmas on both sides were, were artists, or not like artists as a career, but were were artists. And and so it was a big part of my childhood and kind of just like what I was doing to entertain myself as a kid. Like, I remember if there was no school, one day I would go with my mom to her office, and one of the things I would do is I would make cards for all of her coworkers during the day. And then at the end of the day, we would go and go around and deliver them. so things like that where I was just like drawing and making things was a big part of how I was kind of like passing time as a kid.
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I actually can't really remember a time where like, that kind of making wasn't a part of my life, but I think it wasn't until later that I understood that art could also really say something or be a, a kind of vehicle for communicating ideas. And one of the pieces that's coming to mind, I'm not remembering the title of it, but the Felix Gonzalez tour piece that is the, the pile of candy. The pile is weighed out to be the weight of his partner. when he was diagnosed with aids and audience members can take a candy from the pile or not. That piece is like so intimate and so sad, but there's also this sweetness of the candy, Andy and mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I think that's a piece that I think about in terms of like, understanding how something that's relatively simple, you know, a pile of candy can say so many things and, and yeah. So kind of have so many different emotional registers. Right.
R. Alan Brooks (05:41):
Huh. Okay. So obviously that was a significant piece for you. What did you see it at a time that was sort of formative for you as an artist?
Shannon Finnegan (05:52):
I think, I don't even, I don't think I saw it in person. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think I saw it in maybe in a textbook. okay. and yeah, at a time where I had chosen to be an art major in college, I was deciding between being a math major and being an art major <laugh>, and
R. Alan Brooks (06:13):
The rare person who has kind of both Okay.
Shannon Finnegan (06:16):
<laugh>. and so yeah, I think it was at a moment where I was thinking about art in more conceptual ways and exploring that more, and thinking of it as maybe a bigger part of my life rather than something that I was doing alongside other things, though I still feel like I'm doing art alongside many other things.
R. Alan Brooks (06:41):
Yeah. Okay. Well, so there was a, since you were already an art major at that time, that you saw that piece, there was some point in your life that you decided, okay, I'm gonna try and do this. You said you had to choose between that and math. what, what helped you decide?
Shannon Finnegan (06:57):
When I thought about it, I realized that what I loved about math was solving the problem, but I would often get really frustrated by the process. And if I was stuck, that part was not pleasurable to me at all. And what I realized was that I really liked the process of making art. And so I was like that, I mean, so much of anything is the process. And so I think that was what made it clearer to me that like, that was, that was the right fit.
R. Alan Brooks (07:36):
Huh. Okay. So you talked about drawing as a kid, like you're doing the cards and stuff like that. was drawing kind of your main thing or did you kind of get into other stuff?
Shannon Finnegan (07:48):
Yeah, a lot of drawing, a lot of kind of like craft projects. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> knitting like sculpty and yeah, all sorts of different crafts and drawing. and then, yeah, in college I started doing some print making. And so that was really like, I think drawing can feed really nicely into print making. So that was kind of what I was doing. And now I make work in really in a lot of different forms, but I often, I still kind of think of drawing and printmaking as my, like artistic home or like, those are very intuitive ways of making for me. And I often go back to those or, or can kind of trace elements of those even in things that are not drawing or printmaking at all.
R. Alan Brooks (08:45):
<laugh>. Yeah. Okay. So so you've sort of gathered tools, you go to school and you said that as an adult you started to recognize disability as an issue. Your placed within a society, that kind of thing. How did that kind of find its way into your art?
Shannon Finnegan (09:08):
It was really, really slow, I think for me. I mean, and I think it's, it was always there because it's such a big part of my life and my experience, so it was always in the work, but I think I had buried it pretty deep. And, you know, I would talk about it sometimes in relation to the work or in artist statements or things like that, but it wasn't something that just someone encountering the work would, would necessarily know. and I think I felt a lot of fear. I think as, because there are a lot of forces that I think push artists who are marginalized in different ways into like, very specific ways of making or being. And, and I think that I was, yeah, I was worried that non-disabled people, I guess wouldn't relate to the work. And then I think I got to this point where I was like, I don't care, like <laugh>, you know, if my audience is all other disabled people, like great, like that sounds that those, that sounds like a great, like, network to be connected with and to center in the work. And yeah. And I still, I still kind of, when I'm making work, think about really centering other disabled people as kind of like the primary audience for the work.
R. Alan Brooks (10:32):
Hmm. So, yeah, A lot of times we get into these conversations about art as something that heals the artist versus artist as something that communicates something to an audience. for some people both is important. For some people just one or the other. where would you say you kind of fall into that?
Shannon Finnegan (10:55):
I'm not sure. I think, I think it is definitely about connecting with other people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> for me. Mm. Like, I think I notice that when I've made something and I haven't shown it to anyone yet, or haven't talked with anyone about it yet, I often feel it doesn't totally feel real to me. Oh. so I think there is definitely a big part of it for me is about communicating with other people and connecting with other people. But I think that connection has also been really healing to me. Yeah. And so I think that's maybe where that, that comes in.
R. Alan Brooks (11:31):
Hmm. Well, I mean, you talked about those elements, right? Of your fears about addressing the issues of disability. so it, it, it tracks that people connecting with the work would, would be healing to you. Is there a sort of a particular thing in general that you're, that you want the world to get from your art? Does it kind of change?
Shannon Finnegan (11:54):
Yeah, I think it does really change. I think I definitely think about it. Well, I think I had this experience with the work of other disabled, like artists and writers and thinkers where there was kind of like this reflecting back to me where through their work there were things that I understood about myself and about the world. And I think that's part of what I'm excited about is being part of that kind of ecosystem of like yeah, like reflecting or refracting different things. and yeah, I mean, I think ultimately like, yeah, I, I wanna live in a world where disabled people are more supported, where our needs are being met. And I think in small ways I, I hope to like, create moments of, of possibility or ways that things could be different.
R. Alan Brooks (12:57):
Hmm. Okay. Switching gears how long have you been in Brooklyn?
Shannon Finnegan (13:05):
a little bit in and out, but, but more or less about 10 years.
R. Alan Brooks (13:08):
Okay. Well, so I asked this question cuz I grew up in Atlanta when I was like maybe 12, 13. I went to Brooklyn for the first time and I was big in hip hop, so in my imagination there was gonna be like a freestyle cipher on every corner. Right. And I could, I just had this vision where I was gonna be like, mom, stop the car. And I was gonna jump out and start battling MCs. Right. <laugh>
Shannon Finnegan (13:32):
R. Alan Brooks (13:34):
<laugh>. Right. And so I wonder for you as an artist, did you have some expectations about what the scene would be like in Brooklyn for you? And what it has been, what it has been like?
Shannon Finnegan (13:48):
I think I didn't understand until living here, like how many different art worlds or circles are here. Like, there's so much happening. Like the scale is just of, so I grew up in Berkeley and San Francisco and in San Francisco there's, that's not a non, not artistic city. Like there's a lot of art stuff happening there. But I think, you know, there's like, when it comes to contemporary art, there's maybe like five museums or I don't, you know, it's, and then maybe more, I don't <laugh>. but in New York there's just, there's so many museums, there's so many galleries. There's, there's like big commercial galleries, there's small nonprofit galleries, there's artists, artist organized spaces. There's, and I think that was really exciting to me cuz I was like, oh, I can, I can find places that feel like a good fit.
R. Alan Brooks (14:44):
It's such an interesting thing. Yeah. I was just, just thinking about expectation and I don't like how much art is communication and wondering how people will interact with it. So, you know, for me, most of my art is graphic novels and there's a lot of social commentary and the stuff that I do. So I'm very specific about a message that I'm trying to convey. So I'm always curious about someone like you who has specific messages that you're intended to convey in your work. but you're not relying on the relationship between words and visuals in the same way that I am in my medium. so yeah, I would like to, I would like to hear your thoughts about that cuz you know, you have something you want people to get and are you happy if they get, don't get it? Or, you know, like, what is it for you?
Shannon Finnegan (15:36):
Yeah. Lots of things come to mind thinking about that. I think I've been realizing more and more that there is a level of like, intuition for me. Like sometimes I can't, as I'm going into a process, I can't fully explain in words why I, I'm excited about something or why a certain direction is interesting to me. And I feel like actually when other people, sometimes other people will notice things in the work that I didn't Yeah. I couldn't have named or intended, but then I'm like, oh my gosh, yes, of course. Like that is, that's, that's totally there. And but I think also, I mean, yeah, it's interesting thinking about graphic novels as a reference point. Like I do use text in my work mm-hmm. <affirmative> a lot. And I paired with different types of imagery or objects, and I do, I really like that text feels like a real invitation.
Or can feel like a real invitation in Yeah. and that's something that I'm often want in my work is that it's kind of, yeah. It's extending an invitation versus like some contemporary that I think is very enclosed in its own world instead of meanings. And I really have to read like the wall text or something like that to have a relationship with it, which oftentimes I read the wall text and I'm like, incredible, amazing, you know, <laugh>. but that's something that I, I want in my work is to have, yeah. Is to hopefully like someone might have some inkling of what it's about through the kind of text on the piece.
[AD] Valerie Cassel Oliver (17:30):
Hi, this is Valerie Cassel Oliver curator of the exhibition, The Dirty South Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse occupying three floors at MCA Denver. The Dirty South makes visible the roots of southern hip hop culture and reveals how the aesthetic traditions of the African American south have shaped the visual art and musical expression over the last 100 years. This exhibition features an intergenerational group of artists working in a variety of genres, from sculpture to painting and drawing to photography and film, as well as sound pieces and large scale installation works. Head over to MCA denver.org/visit and use the code TDS 20, that's T D S two zero for 20% discount on general admission for this exhibition, which is on view until February 5th, 2023.
R. Alan Brooks (18:34):
Okay. So you do work that is can be big, it can, it can use different mediums. where do you start? Like are you starting with the message? Are you starting with the art and then sort of discovering what the message is in the art?
Shannon Finnegan (18:57):
Maybe? Yeah, maybe I'll talk about a specific project. Okay. so I have this series of work that was at MCA Denver. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that's called "Do You Want Us Here or Not?" And it's benches and seating. And so that was a project where I had been going to museums in New York City and I had just been feeling so frustrated with the lack of seating and places to sit and rest in the galleries is, you know, it's this big fancy museum. There's tons of space, they've spent tons of money on all these different things. They have all this messaging of like, we wanna be welcoming, we wanna be inclusive. And then even something like so simple
R. Alan Brooks (19:39):
Shannon Finnegan (19:40):
As a bench is not there. And so I first, so I was really thinking about that feeling and just feeling frustrated about that. And the first thing that I did was this little drawing that just was a very simple line drawing of a bench that said, this exhibition has asked me to stand for too long. Sit if you agree. And I was like, oh yeah, like maybe the, the piece itself can also comment on the space and on the kind of conditions of the space. And at that time I had no idea how to make a bench or even really what to ask someone who knew how to make a bench, how to make it. and so I made that drawing in 2017 and then I started researching, you know, just kind of like putting out feelers or like, you know, talking to a friend who had a little, knew a little bit more and be like, okay, how would you do it?
Or how, you know. And so I was kind of like collecting ideas for how you can make a bench <laugh>. And then in 2019 there was like an exhibition opportunity and I was like, okay, I'm just gonna make two. Like, that's what I can afford. That's what I feels like somewhat manageable though they're still like big objects that are hard to store. Right. and so I made two and I painted them myself. And the other one in that set said I'd rather be sitting said, if you agree. Like, just very open-ended. so it was kind of a long process to get from the idea to an actual object. And actually I made a zine in the middle. That was kind of my first step was like, okay, I can't build a bench, but I can draw some ideas for a bench and I can put those in a zine. Huh. and yeah. And then I think once those pieces were built and in the world, I started to understand way more about them, about, you know, talking to other people about their experiences of galleries and the kind of talking to curators about why there isn't more seating and, and stuff like that. And understanding that there is kind of a strategy there in terms of like using the artwork itself to get more seating into the space that kind of like works around some of the norms of exhibition design. yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (22:16):
It's really great to hear that process. okay. Shannon, have you ever, did you ever have a point where you struggled with calling yourself an artist?
Shannon Finnegan (22:27):
R. Alan Brooks (22:29):
Okay. I love to hear about that. Cuz you know, I think there's just this way that we as creative people have these sort of intangible goals or like, when this happens, then I'll be real. And so yeah. I wanna, I wanna know what that was like for you.
Shannon Finnegan (22:44):
I think, yeah, I think I really had this idea that to be an artist, it had to be your career or it had to be your job mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and that's just such a silly idea because that's, you know, when right out of college I worked at an artist residency program and it was really amazing because I got to know a lot of artists who were like five or seven years older than me and I had such an abstract idea of what an artist was at that time. And then I was able to meet all these artists and understand like, oh, okay, what what does that actually look like in your life? And like, definitely one of the things I learned is that like almost everyone has a day job, right? And like, everyone's trying to find the day job that they like the best or like, you know,
R. Alan Brooks (23:33):
Or hate the least.
Shannon Finnegan (23:34):
Yeah. Hate the least <laugh>, cobble different things together, like a little of this, a little of that. and I think that was something that helped me understand like, oh, this isn't about having a certain career level or, or something like that. And it's more about what is my focus or what, where am I putting my energy or how I wanna relate to the world. And when I started talking to people being like, oh, I'm an artist, it was so cool to then see where the conversation would go from there and get like kind of opens up a space to like talk more about my ideas or, or share some things that I'm thinking about in that space or, or things like that
R. Alan Brooks (24:22):
Makes me think about, there's this movie by Lake Bell actress, it's called In a World. And the premise of the movie is that her father is like a movie trailer guy, like in a world. Right. and she wants to sort of follow in his footsteps and everybody's saying, you know, like, as a woman, you can't do it and things like that. the, the movie's. Okay. But hearing late Bell talk about making it, she said that the way she came to it was that she found that she was sort of raised to not speak in her real voice, to speak in like a high baby voice as a woman. And she went through a process of sort of recovering her own voice, which obviously is fascinating for, for that specifically. But also I think as an artist particularly as an artist who is marginalized, as you mentioned there is this process of finding what is the most authentic version of me, what is my trues voice. So it's cool to hear, you know, you talk about what it meant to you and finding your way in that same thing.
Shannon Finnegan (25:39):
Yeah. And I feel like that's such an ongoing process for me. You know, I'm always finding new pockets of things where I'm like, oh, right. Like that's some kind of like norm or expectation that I got from somewhere else that actually isn't serving me, or I can try doing it in a different way, or I can experiment with this. And it's like, yeah. It feels like kind of peeling back layers and layers and layers.
R. Alan Brooks (26:03):
Yeah. Well, okay, so when I was in my twenties, I worked my first job outta college was producing a TV show for a televangelist. It was terrible. and it was a community I'd grown up in, but the job itself was especially terrible. But after a few years there, there was a point where I was walking down the hall and one of the administrators came and said, hi Alan. And I was like, hi. Like that, right? And I got this weird picture myself, and I was like, here I am in a shirt and tie. I realized I was walking different, like, differently than who I actually am. I had made my voice higher to be less threatening. And I was like, what happened? Where, where am I? And so I went through this process of sort of like rediscovering myself little by little.
And as I was doing that, then I start, started to see the things that the people around me had done that were so subtle, you know, that I didn't notice it on the way, you know, at the originally, but when I'm trying to recover myself now I see, oh, they're going outta their way to mess with me. You know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's such an interesting thing because I think it can be like that in life. It could be like that in art and obviously the art ends up being a reflection of your life, but there, there's so much fear that people will stoke around you speaking your purest truth. And a lot of times when you do, it's not nearly as bad as it seems like it's gonna be, you actually gain, you know, connections with people that you wouldn't have otherwise. And so for you pushing through that fear about making art that isn't specifically centered on non-disabled people, what kinda experiences have you had? being able to connect with other people who were disabled?
Shannon Finnegan (27:49):
So I think a big part of it was just like making, being kind of like more publicly disabled. Yeah. I think my disability is somewhere kind of in between like an apparent and a non apparent disability. Like, I think some people see me move and walk and do kind of know and other people don't, or, you know, and so I think that was a big part of it was yeah, just being more open about that, that part of myself and that, that then other people would be like, oh, okay. Like, I know another artist who's thinking about some things like that, or, or things like where there were just kind of yeah. Opened up avenues of connection that way. and I'll also say like, I have been the beneficiary of like really amazing intentional organizing of disabled artists in New York City. There, there have been a few people who have really I'm thinking of dancer Alice, she, who would like, kind of host different gatherings or Simmy Linton who did, and Kevin Gotkin who did a lot of organizing around this cultural plan document that the city was making that like, brought a lot of artists together.
And that was, I got kind of like connected into that network and then was able to meet a lot of people yeah. Through that. Yeah. but yeah, sometimes it's just something really simple, like someone being like, yeah, I wish there was a bench here, <laugh>, you know? Oh, right. Or like someone sending me a picture of a space where they were like, oh, look at this great bench. Or, you know, just sometimes it can be really small things, but yeah, that, but feel, yeah. Help me feel like I'm on kind of a path that I wanna be.
R. Alan Brooks (29:41):
That's cool. Yeah. I love, I love how when you are your most authentic self, in spite of all the things that discourage you from it, it allows people to make more sincere connections with you. And you know, you don't have to sort of like shift in and out of who you are as much. Okay. So I know we veered near this, but when you feel, feel fear, creative fear as an artist, how do you deal with it? What are your strategies for sort of working through it?
Shannon Finnegan (30:16):
I, I feel a lot of fear, I'll say. And I actually feel like I felt, I feel more fear as I have more access to opportunities. I think at a really early point in my career I was really making for myself and kind of my immediate networks and communities like it. And there was like a kind of sense of experimentation there that now I miss because I'm in this really amazing position where I can be paid for my work and I get to, you know, make like a big banner or, you know, all these things that, you know, 10 years ago I never would've even believed you if you said that that was <laugh> what was gonna be happening. But then I think yeah, I tend to feel, feel a lot more fear about it. and fear of like, yeah, messing up or not making something that's interesting or yeah.
All sorts of different fears. and I actually feel like one of the best tools I have is actually talking to other artists and people, friends and people who know my work. I'm thinking about this experience I had earlier this year where I was invited to make a banner like this really, it was gonna go on the side of an art space in Germany, this really big banner. And I had never made something that big and I really like froze up around thinking about what I could make for that and felt like I got kind of stuck. And then a friend was like, oh, let's just like talk about it. Like, let's just brainstorm together. And I think I had some like, seeds of ideas, but I was like, oh, that's silly, or that's not, that's not the right thing for this. And then, but being able to kind of, yeah. Talk with someone else, this friend was like, yeah, do it. Why not <laugh>? I was like, ok, nice.
R. Alan Brooks (32:18):
I've seen you know, I guess some of the most prolific artists I've seen have just accepted fear as a part of the process. and I think doing that allows you to recognize that the fear doesn't mean that you need to stop, doesn't mean that something's wrong. It's just, it's just something that happens. for myself I usually feel fear. I don't feel fear while I'm making something or before I feel it when it's done and then I'm like, oh, it's terrible. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but it's done. So I put it out, you know?
Shannon Finnegan (32:53):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think, well, yeah, I, I relate to that a lot. I think cuz I, it's like I am really, the process is what's fun for me. And then when it's done I often have this kind of feeling of like, oh, that, like, I don't care about that anymore. Or like, yeah. And, and I don't feel as like, connected to her or something, which then I, I feel more, yeah. And obviously just also like the shift in audience of being like, oh, this is something that I made and I feel excited about. Now it's there and I <laugh>
R. Alan Brooks (33:23):
Right now. People are gonna see it. Mm-hmm.
Shannon Finnegan (33:26):
[AD] R. Alan Brooks (33:35):
MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater is a hub for the arts. Located in this historic 400 seat theater. We aim, realized one of a kind creative experiences for audiences that spark curiosity challenge conventions, inspire and delight. Visit mca denver.org to learn more about the robust schedule of museum driven and collaborative programming. Okay. So you've explored different mediums. are there other mediums that you're, you're thinking of or looking forward to trying to experiment with?
Shannon Finnegan (34:13):
I, yeah, I mean I've, like I said, I really come from, from drawing and print making. And then yeah, recently I was kind of like, oh, am I a sculptor? Like a lot of what I'm making is actually like objects and I'm really interested in, in stuff and like objects, everyday objects and how those can be artworks or not. so that's something that I've been exploring more. Yeah. I also, during the pandemic I've been doing a lot of like, like kind of textile crafts. Like I've been, I've been knitting these like kind of simple hats for, for friends and I started doing it I think cuz of all of the anxiety I was feeling in the early days of the pandemic. And also just being on a lot of zooms, I realized that like doing something with my hands was really grounding for me.
And so now I've made like 50 hats, like everyone I know has a hat for me, <laugh>. like I have a hat right next to me as we're recording cause I was knitting a little before I got on like and doing some different things like that. And that's also made me feel interested in exploring that more in my practice of really like noticing what processes, like feel good or feel supportive to me or, or feel like already a part of my daily life. And then thinking about how that could be part of my art practice.
R. Alan Brooks (35:41):
Hmm. It's so interesting how, like I was, I was talking about how the art often reflects our lives and, you know, here's something that you sort of embraced in order to occupy yourself during all these zoom sessions and now, now it might find a place in, in your larger practice. I, I just kind of love how all that comes together, you know?
Shannon Finnegan (36:03):
Yeah. I, I love that and I feel like there's so many disabled artists I know who are really Yeah. Who are thinking about kind of like their everyday lives as, as part of what, like, I'm thinking of this video by Lazard where they're, it's just a video of them filling up their weekly pill organizer. Hmm. But it's this very slow process cuz there's a lot of different things moving in different places and, and that that can become an artwork or, or things like that where it's yeah. That, that the, the kind of parts of our daily lives can, I think, come into artwork really in really interesting ways.
R. Alan Brooks (36:50):
Okay. So I guess what are you working on these days? Like what, what's kind of coming next for you?
Shannon Finnegan (37:00):
I'm working on some like longer term projects. so that's been kind of interesting to be yeah. Like things farther in the distance mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which is I think feels really different to me. one of the projects that I'm feeling most excited about is I've had this dream that instead of, usually when a visitor comes into a gallery, it's like you have to move around the room to see all the artwork. So you're kind of going from artwork to artwork around the room mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I've had this dream of like, kind of flipping that where it's like as a visitor you get to come in and sit on like a comfortable seat or couch or something like that, and then the artworks come around to you on a conveyor belt. Oh wow. yeah. It's kind of like wild yeah, wild idea. and I think, yeah, there's a project that I'll get to to do that for next summer. And so I've been in like the conveyor belt research phase, <laugh>, I'm like looking at like luggage carousel and like conveyor belt sushi and all these different things and figuring out what kind of conveyor belt could work for this project. so yeah, that's, that's one that I'm feeling really excited about but is a little bit farther away. Yeah. I wanted to ask you about your relationship to the internet and social media and stuff like that. Right. Cause so many of us now as artists, not only do we have to get over our fear of completing our work, but then we have to, we feel at least a certain amount of pressure for marketing and building an audience. And some artists just don't participate at all, you know, and just kind of stick with the gallery circuit and face to face stuff. So how is it for you?
I I really value social media. I think you know, even before the pandemic, lots of disabled people are home are in bed or are resting or, you know, it's like and I think social media spaces have been interesting spaces for hmm. Disability connection and, and I have disabled friends who live in other places who I've never met, but who I learned about their work online and, you know, we kind of Yeah. Struck up a friendship and I now we send voice memos and all these things. So it's, I feel like it can be, yeah, a really, it can be a really amazing space for a, for connection. There's obviously like lots of really tough and hard things about social media spaces undeniably. so I think I still, and I, I also, I think I value as an artist there being a place where I can speak directly about my work and say what I wanna say and it's not you know, I, I love what curators write about my work, but it's often in a very specific style and, and you know, it's their own kind of approach and thoughts about the work.
And so I really like that I can yeah, kind of talk about that. And I like that I can just post about like what other, whatever other like silly stuff I'm into, like the cool puzzle I did. Or like, I just got this really cool like portable chair that like folds up into a tiny little bag, but then you can unfold it and it's a stool and it's like, so cool. And I was excited to post about that on social media. so yeah, I, I don't, I don't mind it. I definitely, I find the like posting about a specific project or exhibition sometimes feels like less intuitive mm-hmm. <affirmative> to me, but, or I, yeah. I feel more weird about the, what you were saying, promotion, the marketing side of it. Yeah. But then I also think about when other artists post about what they're up to, I'm so grateful that I get to know what they're doing Right. And get to check it out. So I try to think about, sometimes I'll even think about like a specific friend or something as I'm posting to be like, this is just so this person knows that this <laugh> <laugh> that's smart happening and they can come if they wanna <laugh>.
R. Alan Brooks (41:32):
Yeah. I mean that's that place of fear like subverting our, our perception of things again. So it's good that you found a way through it. You know, it's cool also to hear your positive experiences with social media as a person, as an artist. cuz for me it ends up largely feeling like another job. but there are those moments of joy. So like, for example, last night I went to a film premiere of Weird Out Yaka Vic's new movie, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Okay. I'm ridiculous, weird out Yankovic fan <laugh>. But when we got there they had Hawaiian shirts and weirdo wigs in the seat for the whole audience, <laugh>. So we all got to dresses him. Right.
Shannon Finnegan (42:18):
R. Alan Brooks (42:19):
Right. And so we were able to, like, I took a picture of myself and my friend put that on social media, like that's immediate joy that I get to share with people. And like, you know, hundreds of people like it. Like I got to share that moment in a way that I would not have been able to if it weren't for social media. So there are some really beautiful things about it. And then also I, you know, I get to share my art stuff and, but then there are times where I'm like, okay, must promote this event <laugh>, you know, how do I do this? It's just a, yeah, it's just an interesting thing. It's a relationship. I'm always kind of working out for myself,
Shannon Finnegan (42:53):
But yeah. And I feel like it ebbs and flows and there will be like sometimes where I'm like posting up a storm and then there will be sometimes where I'm like, I just, I don't wanna do it and I'll take a break or post list or, yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (43:07):
I know we talked about the show that you're working on. Is there anything that you wanna promote now?
Shannon Finnegan (43:12):
No, I, I mean, I'm always excited for people to just like, check out my website Yeah. Which is just my full name, Shannon finnegan.com. there, that's kind of my archive of projects and when people visit it, it also helps me remember that I need to keep updating it, keep it up to date <laugh> speaking of other things that are kind of a job. so yeah. And, and then yeah, I'm, I'm on, I'm mostly active on Instagram and my handle is the first four letters of my first name, s h a n, and then my last name Finnegan.
R. Alan Brooks (43:45):
Cool. Okay. Then I usually try to wrap things up by asking what is what's your geeky pleasure these days? What's inspiring you creatively, tv, movie, music, other art, what kind of stuff?
Shannon Finnegan (44:01):
Great question. so many. I'm like, there's so many things that come to mind. I'm trying to think which, what to pick.
R. Alan Brooks (44:09):
Oh, you could share three. How about that? Okay.
Shannon Finnegan (44:11):
<laugh> I've been really into puzzles, jigsaw puzzles recently that's been really fun as like a non-screen thing to do and also like kind of a, yeah, like a thing that helps me relax and, and chill out. And I right before the pandemic, my partner's family had gifted us this puzzle, like a vintage puzzle that was like, when we did, we were like, oh my God, these like, the way the pieces fit together and the shapes and the imagery are so cool. And so now we're like super into that <laugh> brand of puzzle and we're like <laugh> checking it out on eBay and all sorts of <laugh>. So yeah, that, that's definitely one. And I've been loving Abbot Elementary, that, that TV show has been big for me. I actually, I feel like I usually watch it twice cause I'm like so excited to watch it when it comes out and then I'll watch it later with my partner, but I'm like, I don't wanna wait for him. <laugh>,
R. Alan Brooks (45:16):
By the way, the lead was in the Weird Al movie playing Oprah, so that's What I wanna say. Yeah.
Shannon Finnegan (45:21):
Wow. Okay. <laugh>. but yeah, those are some of the things that, that I, yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (45:30):
Well those answers are correct.
Shannon Finnegan (45:32):
R. Alan Brooks (45:34):
Well Shannon, I appreciate you taking time to talk to me. It's been, it's been cool. It's been cool to hear about like your artistic journey and all of That.
Shannon Finnegan (45:41):
Yeah. Such a pleasure. I'm excited to follow your social media and get those little bits of joy with you <laugh>.
R. Alan Brooks (45:47):
Right on. We'll Definitely connect.
Shannon Finnegan (45:50):
R. Alan Brooks (45:52):
Special thank you to today's guest, Shannon. Thanks to our listeners, please be sure to subscribe to How Art is born, wherever you get your podcast, for more episodes. And if you can leave a review, it really helps us out. Check out MCA Denver on YouTube and subscribe there to, for behind the scenes clips from today's episode. Don't forget to visit MCA Denver's current exhibition, The Dirty South, on view now.