img-austyn_132404489143Austyn Weiner is a product of her environment. The 23-year-old artist’s explosive color palette comes from her hometown of Miami; the recurring lines—now Weiner’s signature—from her frantic, oversaturated New York existence. But it is the emotion evident in what Weiner does, the part she draws out from her polarized personalities, that lends her work a seductive quality. Weiner does not shy away from revealing herself within and alongside her art—her blog, Austyntatious, is filled with Instagram selfies, and she wrote the biography featured on her website rather than relying on a savvy press agent. It’s the rare young artist who’s committed to revealing her image rather than cultivating it.

Recently Weiner produced her largest work to date, an arresting 40-by-10-foot Plexiglas image. It is her first contribution to a newly formed artist collective, The Arts Initiative, conceived to fill public spaces with large-scale contemporary art. The piece now hangs at The Fashion Outlets of Chicago alongside the work of Daniel Arsham, Friends With You, and Jim Drain—just a few of the acclaimed artists who round out the collective. At the luxury outlet mall, the works can be enjoyed by fine art enthusiasts and nine-year-old mallrats alike, in keeping with the initiative’s goal of making art a part of everyday life. The youngest and least established artist involved, Weiner did not succumb to intimidation. True to form, she became a student of her surroundings and, as she so often does, reveled in some social-media-documented fun along the way. We caught up with the artist to chat about The Arts Initiative, producing autobiographical work, and shooting Cara Delevingne.

ALLYSON SHIFFMAN: How did you come to be involved in The Arts Initiave?

AUSTYN WEINER: I’m from Miami, born and raised, and the curators of this mall project are from Primary Flight, an unbelievable gallery in Miami. All of the artists they approached were somehow related to Miami, whether they had their big break there, were born there, or went to school there. So it had this real family dynamic, because everybody ended up connecting on a level beyond the arts. I was the first install, and when I was planning the project in my head, I thought I would want to be in and out so I could go party all summer, but then I went up there and fell so in love with this environment. We were living in a hotel 50 feet from the mall, so essentially we were in a parking lot in this town outside Chicago. For me, being such a young, emerging artist getting to build relationships with these artists and curators… I broke all of my other summer plans and moved up there for two months until the project opened.

SHIFFMAN: How did you conceptualize this piece?

WEINER: I knew I wanted the work to be image-based, I knew I wanted it to be a portrait piece, and I knew I wanted it to be a narrative. I had written and created this short film where this girl was playing me. It’s a psychoanalytical storyline of the highs and lows of a personality. For this piece, I took apart stills from the film and stitched and layered them to create a narrative where it is this same girl in three different settings. I created all of the work off-site and freighted it to Chicago, so once I got there all I had to do was install it, but every artist was different. There was one artist, Andrew Nigon, who was there for six weeks. He constructed these plaster balloons that looked like they were deflated. After the first install, I helped other people out. The only other female artist in the project was Jen Stark, and I helped her paint her mural because she did a lot.

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