UK-born Claire Shegog is a contemporary artist who lives and works in New York. Though never formally trained in art, Shegog’s longtime career in painting and decorating transformed into a flourishing art career in 2011 with the debut of her innovative “Busby” series. Through intense attention to detail, Shegog plays with texture, pattern and color to showcase her fascination with order and repetition. Some of her work can be viewed at Scope starting March 6.
When did you participate in your first art show? Which one was it?
It was the Houston Fine Art Fair in 2011 with Aureus Contemporary Gallery.
Your work is inspired by Busby Berkeley. Can you tell us a bit about his choreography and how it is reflected in your art?
Busby Berkeley was the choreographer from early Hollywood musicals. He would film hundreds of identically dressed dancers from above, moving in sequence to create geometric patterns or giant impressions of a flower opening and closing by choreographing the ladies to move their legs or a feathered headdress in synchronized ways. I re-create this by placing the individually painted and accessorized figurines (numbering in the hundreds and sometimes thousands) in a pattern on a mirror to replicate the aerial shots of them dancing.
How do you decide on the wardrobe for your ladies?
Growing up, I was fascinated by the old Technicolor films from Hollywood. I would watch them over and over because of the dress styles and great color palettes, so I have a mental Rolodex of glamorous dresses and outfits that work with the shape of my figurines. I get my color palettes from flowers – I can happily sit for ages staring into a bunch of flowers to see the different shades and saturated tones. I also love to look at birds – there are about 10 different shades of gray on the average New York pigeon. Window-shopping is a great source of inspiration, too. For instance, I just walked down West Broadway and saw some lovely colors in a vintage dress store window and then the macaron display in Fauchon’s windows kept me there for a good 10 minutes.
Many of your pieces are custom – do you go to clients’ homes to figure out color schemes and dimensions? What details are there to confirm on a custom piece?
Usually the client has seen my work at a show and already has a good idea of what they want color wise, so I go along to help with dimensions. The combination of the miniature figurines, sparkly jewels, gold leaf and dancing choreography has already appealed to their instinctual sensibility, so I like to give a little nudge and a wink to encourage them to really let loose with the colors and accessories.
Is there one designer you’d like to collaborate with on one of your pieces? What do you like most about his or her style?
Vivienne Westwood – her fantastic color palette and the playful, irreverent nod to historical British fashion, the 18th century mistress, shooting attire, the monarchy, punk – I like the high-end craftsmanship and beautiful fabrics mixed with a dollop of sauciness.
Do you think a finished piece with her design would appeal to an audience that is different from the one you have now?
I don’t think so. Obviously, my audience would widen incredibly, but I don’t imagine they would change.
Like Vivienne, you are originally from England. What brought you to the states?
After backpacking around South America for six months, I had a stopover in New York for a few days before returning to Paris, where I had been living for a while. I asked a good friend if I could crash on her couch ’til I left and she took me to a fabulous salsa party that night and whispered in my ear that we could have that much fun every night if I stayed – that was 14 years ago. Along with the great salsa scene, I realized how comfortable I felt about myself in New York, so it was natural to stay – and it’s been great.
What were you doing before you started with Busbys?
For the last 20 years I have been working as a painting and wallpapering contractor – I am still riotously passionate about a beautifully plastered wall or well-painted molding. If the preparation is done correctly then the last 25 percent of a job is the most satisfying – I take this approach with my Busby Berkeley pieces too.
Having traveled to destinations like Miami and Switzerland…is there a concentration of buyers from any particular country?
So far, most of my shows have been in the States, so I would say mainly here, but when I am in Europe, I get a lot of response from the Turkish.
Where is most of your art hanging now?
USA, Dubai, UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland and Mexico.