Nature Walk and Art Talk with Alicia Armentrout

I want to marvel and laugh, so I am drawn to work that asks me to do both.

I met Alicia Armentrout at the Hitchcock Nature Center. It was one of those warmish windy spring days where you could get away with wearing a tank top or a winter coat interchangeably. Alicia is an Artist INC fellow, an OCI workshop leader, and most recently one of our CSArtists. She and musician Kait Berreckman are collaborating on a project for CSArt Omaha.

How did your collaborations with Kait Berreckman come about?

I met Kait through Omaha Creative Institute's Artist Inc. program. We were lucky enough to be in the same small group. Due to this program, we not only have a wonderful friendship, but a great, collaborative professional relationship, as, subsequently to Artist Inc., we have worked together on a couple of music videos and photo shoots.

You mentioned that you are not fully comfortable being referred to as an "artist"; what does that word mean to you, and how do you identify yourself?

I think overall people use the word "artist," not to mention "genius," very loosely, therefore indistinctly. Yes, on a some level, I suppose I am an artist in that I am not content to consume, enjoy or flow with this life experience; instead, I insist on projecting, creating, commenting, and hopefully enhancing the life experience through the work I share.

However, I personally see myself as a creative problem solver. My photography and any and all other work I do is a result of something I have been thinking about, which then resolves in this analytical but also creative decision. I am parsing a definition of myself as an artist here, I know, but I strongly believe it's important to be wholly precise and unflinchingly accurate in this completely wack, wacky and wack-a-doodle land we coincidentally inhabit.

What drives your art-making?

I am a recovering philosophy major, which is to say, I am naturally an incredibly introspective individual with an incessant need to reflect, critically evaluate and clarify reality. Luckily for everyone, I am no longer sooooooo stupidly serious or utterly negative about it all. My creative output is a direct result of relentless analysis.

You said that you feel very rooted in Omaha, could you expand on that?

Actually, what you said when we took a jaunt the other day was perfect - this idea that everything cohered and coheres here. I spent some time out there confused, muted and floundering. I wasn't making any measurable or substantial moves forward. It took some time, but after I moved back, my thoughts just kind of congealed.  I understand something essential about myself here and this gives me a feeling of strength and purpose.

What is the greatest lesson you've learned about art? (or life)?

Paradoxically, humanity struggles and thrives because of our ability to project our ideas, imaginations and phantasms upon reality. We can go a number of routes and become, say ideologues, idealists or mystics, but I find it's best to attempt to level with reality with a conscientious aesthetic and a sense of humor and then input those into everything we do, attempt, and dream.  I want to marvel and laugh, so I am drawn to work that asks me to do both.

We accidentally got on the "hilly" path back up to our cars, as the topic settled on the art community in Omaha. We took out-of-breath turns trying to articulate how it can feel like a small pond with limited opportunities, but also supportive and generally going in the right direction. Neither of us had an answer or were sure there was a problem. Armentrout was grateful for the close friends she has met in the art scene, and glad to have the art opening option on a Friday night. And she'll probably be outdoors with her camera on Saturday, making a little bit of magic with whatever Nebraska's giving her.

-anna nance

Check back next Friday for another interview with a CSArtist!