Ryan M Schroeder
How did you get into debt?
The cost of my undergraduate degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art was not fully covered by the generous scholarships awarded to me by the school. After working for four years, and trying to "make it" as an artist, I opted to go back for an MFA. I moved to Brooklyn to attend the New York Academy if Art. To save money and attend the program I lived in an attic-literally a crawl space in Bushwick; $750 per month. After graduating my MFA, I rented a studio in Bushwick for $1,000 and shared an apartment for $1,700 with the person who eventually became my wife. We were married at the Court House. Additional debt piled on after being cut from Jeff Koon's factory after his project concluded. Every time I exhibit my work I pay for it. Every residency I undertake it paid for by me.
How does your economic reality effect your art?
My paintings are relics that reflect reality. Through paint, I am exploring space as a phenomenological experience in that the subject matter is assembled through firsthand exploration. I paint abandoned spaces that resonate with me. Some paintings are made perceptually, and others from photographs. However, my main focus is finding a means to visually transmit the dominant psychological feeling of a person or place. I am attracted to spaces that possess a residue of occupation, the visceral sensation of a human presence. These structures provide a framework through which I am able to have a conversation about decay, neglect, and what it means to be forgotten.
Would your work look different if you weren't in debt?:
I imagine that my work would be different had I had a different life experience. Both the content and the materials used in my work are directly related to the experience of poverty. Not only a childhood defined by abject poverty, but that issue compounded by my heartfelt need to make art. I often reflect on the cost of my degrees and what it will mean for my life. Will I ever be able to own a house, or have a family? How about even just paying off half of my loans? So many years were spent learning how to think about art, and how to create, yet this education has no practical application. Nor do these skills necessarily translate into other disciplines. Of course, the work would look different if I were not burdened by debt, and living in New York. Yet, Im not sure it would be mine.