A Conversation with Roxanne Byrne

A Conversation with Roxanne Byrne

Artist Roxanne Byrne on Creative Work that Helps Heal

In this episode of Call/Response, Dallas artist Roxanne Byrne talks about her creative process, performance art that addresses trauma, and developing a sociological eye.

Synopsis: Roxanne's sociology background helps her see art's potential to heal. Through writing, performance art, comedy and visual arts, she navigates her own feelings and experiences, and uses the arts to help others.

In this conversation, we discuss how Roxanne deep-dives into her creative processes, where she finds inspiration, and how she works to help others.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Artists: Salvador Dali

Books: Black Liturgies, by Cole Arthur Riley

Museums: Dallas Museum of Art, The Getty, Los Angeles

Dallas Art: Meow Wolf, Dallas Arboretum ArtScape (past)

Connect with Roxanne Online: Medium, Instagram

Upcoming Shows: SheRose Presents Open Mic Mondays, 6:30 p.m. (Doors) 7 p.m. (Show), Mondays at The Wine Therapist ; Greathouse Playhouse, 9 p.m. July 20, Stomping Ground Comedy Theater,

Transcript:

You're listening to Call and Response with K.Co Press, Conversations with Writers on Art and Artists on Literature. I'm Stephanie Khattak.

Today we'll be speaking with Roxanne Byrne, a writer and artist in Dallas who finds inspiration in both disciplines.  Roxanne writes on the subjects of connection and belonging, using creative work to navigate trauma and issues relevant to women and women identifying individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

She performs in the improv comedy troupe, Jeffy and the Gang, and is in a recurring show called Whose Mind Is It Anyway? Thanks for being here today, Roxanne. Tell me a little bit about your work.

Yes,  thank you for having me. I have been performing poetry for 10 years, off-and-on. It kind of happened in spurts. Then, in the comedy community, I've been doing that for probably eight years now. I write nonfiction and fiction. I really like to write psychological thriller and surreal and absurdist types of stories and I love just all sorts of disciplines.

I kind of explore a lot of different ones!

What inspires you?

I have a background in sociology. I received my bachelor's degree in that. And that has really inspired me a lot over the years, because we were taught in school to develop a sociological eye, which means to —basically — the theory goes that we walk around in life with blinders on based on ideology  politics, all sorts of cultural things, and  so we are trained to look —to try to look above that, beyond that, to see what is our life like without looking through those lenses.

And, a lot of other things inspire me, like the subconscious mind really inspires me. I'm so fascinated with that.

Is there anything specific you've been working on recently?

Yes. I have been playing with the idea of starting a podcast called Pretty Ugly.   It's kind of like a diary almost, exploring what it was like growing up in an alcoholic household.  And, I think  I think there are so many stories to be told   when it comes to that.

In Al Anon groups you'll hear those stories all the time, but I really want those stories to be more accessible. And it's helpful for me in my healing process to talk about it.  

A lot of your work navigates the complexities around trauma and identity.  How does creative work help make sense of challenging experiences?

So I, it really helps me because I feel like I can create a new narrative around the traumatic experience and harness like empowerment from it. I want to be able to share an experience that I've had, because, you know, it's way more universal than you'd expect. Specifically,  I know I sent you the magazine that I created    And I've performed the main poem (in it) called "Space," in public many times. I've had people come up to me saying that they had similar experiences, and that it really helped them.

So, that helps me heal. And I love to help others, and it helps me move through that grief.  It's also really soothing to structure those poems and just keep going through them.  Although I have to take a break because it can be a little hard.

How can art begin to repair some of these experiences that may have been challenging or hurtful?  Does it help to look at the work of a particular artist or is there a particular writer that you go back to again and again that you'd like to recommend to others?  Perhaps a writing or art making exercise?

What I really love to do when I write is to visualize what's going on in the scene that I'm visualizing in my mind. And  since that's the language of the subconscious mind, imagery and feeling, it helps me, speak to my subconscious mind and maybe other people's subconscious minds to help develop an understanding through those emotions and that imagery.

One of my favorite directors is is Alan Ball who wrote  "Six Feet Under." It's one of my favorite TV shows.  And "American Beauty" is one of my favorite movies. It's kind of a — well, I don't want to give it away if some people haven't seen it   but such a great director, and visually, because he uses the theme of the rose in "American Beauty," and uses that rose all throughout the movie, and he looks at American life at that time, the early 2000s and conveys a feeling without having the actors really say that much .

Who some of your favorite visual artists and how do they inspire or inform your work?

I really love Salvador Dali. Especially a painting called "The Persistence of Memory."  That one's so, so fascinating to me.  I really love surreal art.   Let's see, favorite artists. I love a lot of musicians that have like really amazing music videos, like Billie Eilish.

There's an artist called Ren, who is from London, or from Brighton actually, that has made some excellent music videos. He creates these poetic performances practically, and they're absolutely beautiful. There are a lot of films that inspire me a lot. One of my favorite films is "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."  And  there's another film called "Requiem for a Dream." The cinematic qualities of those movies are incredible. And for  "Eternal Sunshine..." the director, Michelle Gondry, used a lot of optical illusions and a lot less editing than you'd expect.

Does your writing routine involve visual art or vice versa, and if so, how?

For sketch (performances), I  will often film myself, like, doing the sketch, or especially in the process of discovering the character, I'll film myself improvising.  And  it's really cool to watch it back and then discover more about a character.

What other writers and artists do you look to as inspiration for your own work?  What inspires you about them?

Ari Aster, who directed "Hereditary."  I absolutely love Ari Aster's work, that movie especially.  The other movies  are very interesting.  I haven't gotten completely on board with all of them. But, oh my gosh! It is so hard to even describe. His work is so inspiring. In the movie, he touches on generational trauma, and how  it's almost like a haunting, and it almost overtakes the family in "Hereditary."

Billie Eilish especially, as well. She just came out with an album called "Hit Me Hard and Soft."  So, yeah, she's super. Her work, well, her and Phineas's work is really inspiring. And, they have an album cover where like, it's all blue, but there's a door at the top that's opening. And, she's falling through the door.  And  in in the album, she keeps talking about like opening up the door, and how it's really hard for her and yeah, it's something I've been just looking at a lot over the past few weeks and I'm constantly inspired by it.

Do you have any specific exercises or writing practices around the visual arts, like paintings or drawings or sculpture or  photography?

For writing, I, I like to take like walks  around my neighborhood to help me think and get away from social media.  I will listen to music too, but I won't be like, on my apps!  So let's see. Some exercises I like to try to do is to  imagine  that the character I'm thinking about is in a scene from a movie or a TV show.

I imagine what the, the color scheme is, what sounds... like, say they're in an apartment or something, what sounds are outside? Is there like traffic? Is it completely silent? Can you hear the birds?  It's really interesting for me in my mind to set the tone of the scene.

And I also like to write down like objects and what they mean, and where they come from. I did a workshop about a year back where I prompted people to  think of an object. Someone thought of a family heirloom, like a clock. And, I  had the people in my workshop talk about that object as if it were themselves. So personifying the object.

And that also really helps me in my writing routine, personifying an object and seeing how I can actually relate to that object.

Where are some of your favorite places to see art in Dallas? Where do you like to go to get inspiration from art?

I like to go to art fairs.  The Arboretum has a yearly art fair, so I like to go check out local artists, as well as the ones that are traveling across the country.   

The Dallas Museum of Art is really amazing. The Perot Museum has natural history, and that can be also inspiring. There's a, a really incredible Lego exhibit  that I got to see.  That was so awesome! They created  (Lego) exhibits of  human beings with chunks of their center taken out, like their heart taken out. And it was incredible.   The Lighthouse, it had the the Van Gogh immersive, that one is   really amazing. Let's see.  So, Wild Detectives, that's a bookstore with a bar and everything. They have a lot of events as well for performance artists. It's storytelling, comedy. I like to go to comedy shows, like Course Grind is just a garage show where people can do performance art and basically, they can do whatever they want for the most part.

So, so cool.

Where are places that you like to go see art  elsewhere? When you travel, are there places that you like to return to?

The Kimbell museum is really awesome in Fort Worth. Meow Wolf is actually not that far away from me.    Have you been there?

Yes, I love Meow Wolf. Yeah!

I like that. Yeah, it was so cool. I love immersive. exhibits like that.  I plan to go to every single one in the United States when I get the chance.

That's great! The one in Santa Fe is really good, too.

Yeah, I've heard that.

Oh man, I love how it just tells a story and you can go into portals and explore the inner workings of, you know, this family's life. I also went to the Getty in LA not too long ago, and that was really cool. I've been to the glass art exhibit in  Seattle.

Chihuly.

That was incredible. I'm going to actually be taking glass blowing class pretty soon,

Well, that's cool! That sounds like a lot of fun.

Yeah, I'm really excited about it.

What made you decide to do glassblowing?  

Well  yeah, there's a, there's a show you might have heard about or seen on Netflix called "Blown Away." Have you heard of it?

No, I haven't. Tell me about it!

It's a glassblowing competition. The contestants have all the resources at their disposal, at their fingertips. And all the colors they need and everything.

And they have like, I don't know, four hours or eight hours or twelve hours to make what  looks like basically masterpieces from a prompt that they get like at the very beginning. It's really soothing to watch and it's absolutely gorgeous and I'm so excited to try it out.

What do you have in mind to create? Are you thinking to make  more abstract pieces or functional items or what's your, what's your goal there? Or maybe you don't know till you get there!

I really want to explore it. I'm not sure if I'm going to make this with glass, but I've been thinking a lot about  the visual  (and this might be hard to do with glass,)  the visual of a conveyor belt.

Ah.

Yeah!  With like, I actually, so this is something I've been, I've been drawing lately is like, Okay.

I've been drawing with whiteout, which... I'm trying to make sure it's like safe to do it, so I don't do it  too often.

You might start enjoying it too much, huh?

Yeah, exactly!  So, what I plan on doing though is like getting an actual conveyor belt, but, like a small one. I might have it made, like, at the Lego store they have stuff where you can make something... kind of like that.

And so I'm going to draw clouds with Whiteout on that conveyor belt. And, yeah, I've just been working on that idea as a representation of the subconscious mind  or the feeling that we're continuously on this conveyor belt and we keep making decisions out of habit, and how it can also be soothing to be within, like to be on this conveyor belt of the subconscious mind.

So I'm really loving to explore that.

That's really cool! I'm excited to hear how your glassblowing lessons help you translate that into something totally new.

Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. I'm so excited for that.

What have you been reading these days?

Yes. I have been reading a book called "Black Liturgies" by Cole Arthur Riley.  And it is so good so far. I'm not even really religious at all. But, her book is incredible! I could see her being an extremely famous writer.

What do you like about the book?

She writes about community and how even if you're not religious, you can use, , these prayers. You can read them to help you develop a sense of community and reaching out to other people. And, she talks about prayers, poems and meditations for staying human and I think what's really cool about her, is that she makes things human. I think in our society, we tend to be very stuck in a consumerist, capitalistic mindset and often maybe feel isolated.  

From what I've heard, a lot of people don't even have one friend that they could reach out to.  And so I think it's really important to develop community. And it's...it's just been very healing for me.

Good! So, what's next for you?

I'm working on going to more open mics to do poetry performances.  And, I've been really loving doing performance art. It's really been fun! It's like comedic performance art. So, I'll be doing that, and I'm also going to be posting a lot of my poems on Medium.com.

Can you tell me a bit about the performance art?

So it started off as just comedic ideas, and then people would come up to me afterward and be like, "that was like performance art!"  So  I was like, "yeah, it kind of does look like that a lot more," and I see myself as more like an artist  than a comedian, even though they're both equally important to me.

So, let's see. So, the last thing I did, I did a performance at Coarse Grind.  There's this saying, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop ... the floors used to be so thin between apartments that, like, whenever someone came home, you would hear them so easily, like, their boots stomping on the ground. And so, say the person below them is trying to fall asleep, and they can't fall asleep until the last shoe drops.

I was sort of playing with that idea. It's just like waiting for the other shoe to drop has been...it's kind of been about, like, a trauma response. Like, you keep waiting and waiting and waiting for something to occur so you can fall asleep, so you can rest.  And so, I played a, spider.  And I had shoes on my hands, and I put baby Converse shoes on a spider that I had on my back. So, I had like little spider limbs and Converse shoes on my feet. And so (onstage) I came home, stomped into the scene and took off like each shoe. I also took out pans and put them on the ground and just kept dropping the shoe from the ground.

It almost gives it away too much to explain it, but that's kind of what it's about, like, playing with that idea.

Well, we'll just have to come see you in action sometime!

Yeah, that'd be awesome. Would love to meet you in person

Yeah! And so where can we learn more about you and experience your work?  

I will be at the next Coarse Grind. It's a public show.  It should be in about three months. You can go to medium. com to take a look at some articles I've written there.  I've added some poetry recently.  am also on a website called booksy. com where I've posted   Drafts over the years and I will be going to a, an open mic that occurs every month, every Monday  of the month called   at the Wine Therapist  

I'll be in a musical improv show on July 1 called Figaro at Monday night, at a show called Monday Night Feast, at Four Day Weekend in Dallas.  I'll be doing a show with Jeffy and the gang at Four Day Weekend at 8 p.m. And then, if you want to see more of that experimental, like, performance art comedy, I have a show at Stomping Ground with the show Great House Playhouse.

I'll be a part of the act.  And that one, I believe, is on July 20.

Is there anything that you'd like to add that I haven't asked you about today?

I'm super grateful to be on here, and thank you so much for asking me on!

 

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Thanks for listening to this episode of Call and Response with K.Co Press.  You can find us online at www.kcopress.com , on Instagram @KCoPress  or on Facebook @KCoArts. 

 

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About Call/Response:

Call/Response: Conversations with Writers on Art and Artists on Literature is produced by K.Co Press. Find it, Like and Subscribe on Buzzsprout, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts and Amazon Music.

Hosted by Stephanie Khattak.

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