Catching Up with Audrey Aristeo (’22)

March 8, 2023

Audrey Aristeo (’22) has been busy since graduating last May. After receiving the Professional Development Grant from Montserrat’s Career Design Studio, Audrey used the grant as an opportunity branch out and expand beyond the boundaries of her familiar artistic practice. 

Specifically, the award allowed Audrey to attend a mural painting workshop last summer in New York. She spent a week in July shuffling between New Paltz and Rosendale, where the Women’s Studio Workshop is located. This particular workshop offered something entirely outside of Audrey’s experience–mural work.

Since I went to school for book arts, I decided it would be best for my growth to try something completely different. I had near-zero experience with mural work prior to this workshop. My only relevant experience prior had been a group project with my Color: Material and Light class freshman year. What drew me to the opportunity was how completely out of the ordinary it was for me. I originally felt hesitant because of this but I’d always been fascinated by murals and muralists and I wanted to try in a safe learning environment.”

The workshop was led by muralist and graffiti artist Lady Pink. Pink has been painting graffiti, murals, and fine art since 1979, and examples of her work have entered the collections of the MET, the Brooklyn Museum, and Boston’s MFA. 

“I was not familiar with Lady Pink’s work beforehand, but quickly I learned what makes her so special. Lady Pink is not your typical instructor and she knows this about herself. She is brusque, honest, straight to the point. I definitely was not expecting, nor was I used to, this less-gentle type of instruction. But as blunt as she could be about our mistakes, she was also just as honest about our triumphs.

“She showed us a few basic principles and then set our group to work in the hot sun… I can say with confidence that I learned through the toughness of the process, and it was exactly what I was hoping for in that sense–a new and strange art-making experience unlike anything I’d done at school.”

Near the end of the workshop, Lady Pink learned that Audrey was also in the process of moving to North Adams, Massachusetts. Lady Pink herself would be going there as well, as she was working on a mural in the town and creating a piece at MASSMoCA. Audrey began the month of July excited and nervous about exploring a new medium. She ended it working as an assistant muralist alongside an artist famous for their work in that medium. Audrey served as an extra set of trusted hands while Pink lead a group of teens through the process of beautifying the North Adams teen center.

“The project was a beautification effort for ROOTS Teen Center. They had recently moved their location to what had been an abandoned pharmacy for many years prior, and which many locals felt was a visual blight on the neighborhood. The kids had designed the mural together and I was just an extra pair of hands to help make sure it got done on time. Lady Pink was gentle and encouraging with the kids and they were so excited to make the teen center their own.  We had buckets of paint of every color in the rainbow set out in the shade–it was 90 degrees and humid and the work was formidable, but together we made something really beautiful happen–and in a small way I made my mark on my new town. Many locals honked at us in approval as we worked.”

After completing the mural, Audrey took a job working as a Museum Attendant at MASSMoCA (“On a typical day I am operating the roller coaster that we now have inside the largest gallery space”) and settled into her new home in North Adams. Every week she heads to Easthampton to work with Montserrat alumna Lisa Hersey (‘12) at Antler Editions.

“Lisa was my mentor for my final semester at Montserrat. She was one of the very first Book Arts graduates. She has her own client-based bookbinding practice in Easthampton, MA, and once a week I visit her studio to help her with bookbinding tasks.  Talking to Lisa and visiting her studio to work brings me closer to what I studied and helps me remember what I want to do.  If I did not have this relationship with Lisa, I think it would be easy to fall away into the drudgery of my part-time job (as wonderful as the museum is, it isn’t where I want to be long-term), and forget to make time for art, which ultimately is the evidence that I am alive.”

If you want to follow along with Audrey’s own artistic work she can be found at @aud_drawings and @audreymadethis on Instagram.