2021 Visual Arts
Successful painter and artist, Corrie Slawson remembers thinking she couldn’t draw well as a child. In fact, she enjoyed singing and dancing much more. Surrounded by classical musicians like her mother Anita Pontremoli, now the Head of Collaborative Piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music, she believed art had to be technically perfect.
In seventh grade, Corrie became interested in fashion. Her mother bought her a Vogue magazine with model, actress and entrepreneur Iman on the cover. Pencils in hand, she replicated the cover extremely accurately. She began to draw other magazines and record album covers. Suddenly, she believed she could draw.
Her mother enrolled her in a design class in the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Her father, Al Slawson, a math teacher in the Shaker Heights math department, asked his colleague, Jennifer Russell, to give her private painting lessons in 9th and 10th grade. She continued to sing in the Heights Choir and studied ballet.
“I was pretty determined at that point that I was going to move to Paris and be a fashion designer and painter,” she remembers. “I look back and realize how lucky I was that my parents provided me those opportunities.”
The Cleveland Heights High School graduate then enrolled at Parsons School of Design in Paris but felt that program was better set up for master’s students, so quickly transferred to Parsons in New York.
“In New York, I certainly felt some of the dissonance of the 90s art world and technical training, but I also was incredibly influenced by Judy Glantzman and Paul Marcus,” Corrie says. “They were the ones who taught me to give myself permission to ‘let go’ of preconceptions about what artwork ‘should’ be.”
She graduated from Parsons in 1997 and then worked as an art handler and mount maker at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she could immerse herself in the world-class collection. She was also involved in restoration and rehanging of the Armor Court and other galleries. Next, at Malrite Co., she worked closely with nationally known museum consultants Dennis and Kathy Barrie on the development of the Spy Museum. Then pursuing her MFA at Kent State University, Corrie delayed her thesis defense until December 2006, after the company’s work for the opening of the Maltz Museum was complete.
“My thesis advisors Martin Ball and Craig Lucas at Kent State University were mentors who really pushed me to explore mixed media, works on paper and how social issues could interweave in my work,” she says. “No doubt, working as a museum exhibition specialist also played a huge role in that work.”
Corrie taught in CIA’s print department for about six years and was a freelance grant writer for The Detroit Jazz Fest, Zygote Press, and the Cleveland Sculpture Center. Since 2017, she has worked as part-time faculty in the Painting and Drawing Department at KSU School of Art. She paints and produces her original works out of her home studio. She and her partner, Karen Beckwith, do print workshops out of Ping Pong Press, her basement print shop, and use the equipment she has installed to make etchings and screen printings.
With support from SPACES Satellite Fund, The Andy Warhol Foundation and Akron Soul Train, Corrie and a team of NE Ohio-based artists produced Feast: a ballet, the film adaptation made with collaborator Wasted Talent Media was awarded a Gold Laurel at the Virgin Spring Cinefest in Kolkata, India. Her collaborators for the project were Christina Lindhout and Kelly Korfhage as the choreographers/dancers and Dalindyebo Shabalala and Marc Lefkowitz provided content, research and writing. Plans are in the works to perform the ballet in Cleveland next year.
“We created a ballet about how European colonialism has destroyed the tropical world that examines the relationship between this legacy and climate change, because there is not a more colonial form of art than the court dances of French King Louis XIV,” she explains.
Her work has been exhibited in the US and internationally, including at MOCA Cleveland, The Toledo Museum of Art, Akron Art Museum, The Massillon Museum, Centro Culturel de Tijuana, SPACES and in Dresden and Sardinia. She has received two Individual Artist Awards from the Ohio Arts Council (2012 and 2019).
“Corrie brings unlikely elements together, in her artwork and in life,” says Sarah Kabot, associate professor, Chair of Drawing at the Cleveland Institute of Art. “Geometric abstraction meets empathetic animal studies, the symbolic gestures of ballet meet ecological advocacy, backyard chickens are given an elegantly wallpapered coop. Corrie is not shy about using her work to champion social and environmental justice.”