Artist Interview: Renée Caouette, Emerging Contemporary Painter

If you haven’t heard of Renée Caouette, we suspect you will soon. Her contemporary classical oil paintings have been starting impassioned conversations all around the art world.

Taking cues from her classical training, Renée has found a way of utilizing the skill and precision of the old masters to depict contemporary imagery that expresses both universal themes and deeply intimate experiences. In our interview with the artist, Renee reveals her creative process, sources of inspiration, and most prized works.

Q: How do you think your background in art history influenced your personal style, if at all? 
A: I believe it helps in two ways: conceptually and for visual references. I have a sort of Rolodex of paintings and artists in my head that I pull from for composition and inspiration, as well as many historical narratives and a knowledge of events in history. While studying history in Europe, I was fortunate to have the chance to see many works of art and historical places in person, not just from a book or on a computer.

In being trained to research extensively, my concepts have layers of meaning. This is a result of my academic writing. I look at my paintings as theses: they present an idea and are backed up or proven by the composition and elements within the painting.

Q: How do you continue to stand out and remain unique in the contemporary art world?
A: This is a good question. I think I am always playing and continuously producing which allows me to try new ideas and “get out the bad paintings.” Picasso said that you must make the bad paintings in order to produce the masterpieces. Not every work is a piece of art. This process allows me to stay true to what I want to paint, and as long as you do that, I think being unique and standing out will come naturally.

Q: Your paintings, while figurative, contain a lot of symbolism. Each painting has its own story, but is there a greater symbolic message or theme present in your work as a whole, or within specific series?
A: I do have specific series’ that have overarching themes. For example, my series of oil paintings on mirrors addresses duality, vanitas and reflection.

"But Can You Hear the Flowers? They Are Singing" by Renée Caouette

As a whole, my work is ultimately a reflection of myself. I believe every painting is a self portrait (whether it is actually a self portrait or not) and contains myself in them. When viewers see my work, I hope that they connect with some part of the piece. It is like having a conversation.

Q: Which one of your paintings holds the most meaning for you and why?
A: The painting that holds the most meaning for me is “Boston Public Radio.” I made this interior painting along with three others that represent my father. I found this interior scene that struck me as a reflection of him. When I was young, instead of watching television we would listen to NPR. In the painting there is a 1950’s stand up radio with a Vietnam era hat, opera glasses and a print of Childe Hassam’s “Boston Common” painting which is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. These are all cathartic symbols of my late father.

"Boston Public Radio" by Renée Caouette
“Boston Public Radio” by Renée Caouette

Q: What does the future hold for Renee Caouette?
A: Oh goodness, who knows. As my grandmother says, “God only knows and he won’t tell.” Stay tuned to find out.

Q: If you could have one story from your life turned into a work of art for yourself, which would it be?
A: It would probably be a very banal scene from my life. I think the most humor and insight can come from the subtlest events. For example, a scene at a family dinner or my journey to work. Stories, and therefore people, are fascinating to me. I love to talk to everyone and learn about their lives. So much more interesting than my own.

What did you think of our interview with Renee Caouette? Leave your response in the comments and check out more of Renée Caouette’s portrait and interior paintings on StoriesToArt.

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