For Fin Simonetti and her generation of young artists, genres and labels exist to be destroyed

Experimental film? Illustration? Stained glass? Music production? Simonetti keeps checking off mediums like she's shopping for groceries.

Experimental film? Illustration? Stained glass? Music production? She's done it all

(Walter Wlodarczyk)

For today's generation of young artists, genres and labels exist only to be destroyed. Creative experimentation is the norm, not the exception. Just think of Billie Eilish or Lil Nas X, who catapulted to success with a transgressive approach to genre conventions, or Rihanna, who was already a music icon when she became a fashion and beauty mogul and added film work to her long CV. To be a nimble, collaborative and experimental workhorse is often part of a young artist's DNA. Vancouver-born artist Fin Simonetti knows this well.

A multihyphenate creative talent, Simonetti recently landed on Cultured Magazine's 30 under 35 young artists to watch in 2020 with a nose-to-the-grindstone multidisciplinary artistic practice — and a career that defies a conventional trajectory. Experimental film? Illustration? Stained glass installations? Stone sculptures? Music production? Simonetti has done it all.

"I'm a bit of a workaholic. There's this quote I heard about the value of 'rotating the crops' and I really identify with that," she says. "It's like exercising different muscles, and beyond that, it's such a pleasure to let your curiosity move you through different materials."

(Aubrey Mayer)

Simonetti's refusal to be constrained to one medium doesn't just mark her as part of a generation more interested in uninhibited self-expression than labels; it's also an approach that allows for nuanced ways to explore ideas through specific mediums. For an exhibition about masculinity and alienation, for instance, Simonetti decided to work with stone, a material that she notes is both rigid and fragile ("It just fit conceptually," she says). Following her instincts has given Simonetti a career that's defined by its range, with work that spans those scrupulously built sculptures to dark imagery of women in bold, red illustrations to intricate stained glass pieces that explore security and danger.

As a teen, Simonetti started developing experimental film projects that received awards at Cascadia and Burbank film festivals. And then there's music — she released her debut album ICE PIX in 2016. Add to that a slew of collaborations — take, for instance, her custom work for clothing line Puppets and Puppets' (like these egg-shaped stained glass earrings), which she loved doing for "the opportunity to try on someone else's vision" — and you start to see how working and collaborating across different mediums lets Simonetti push her creative potential.

By Fin Simonetti from the show Head Gusset. (Courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery)

It's also a hard grind that she's kept up throughout her adult life. "It's true my work can be gruelling or takes a long time to execute," she says. "I do have a lot of stamina and resilience in the face of discomfort, which serves some of the more physical parts of my practice. But it's not so much a hustle as it is that I just love what I do."

Following her creative impulses means that Simonetti is also sometimes surprised by her next project — a process she learned to enjoy while completing residencies in Baltimore, China and Vermont.

"In my experience with residencies, I usually go in thinking I know what I want to do, and end up working on something else," she says. "In Vermont, for example, I went in with drawing in mind, and once I got there I ended up working on music. In China, I thought I was going to work on music, and instead I made a series of videos. I think it's really important to let the work dictate itself, and be open in your process. I have this little refrain: 'Whatever the work needs, the work gets.' It means I will override my expectations to respond to the work as it unfolds."

(Loreta Lamargese)

For Simonetti, and a generation of artists like her, stretching creative tentacles opens doors and offers surprising twists and turns. Artists working in a range of genres today have the benefit of reaching diverse audiences on social media, generating various sources of income, expanding on their professional network or building on their brand. And then there's the nebulous, extensive way in which information is shared online, which opens more opportunities for young, genre-bending artists than ever before.

Simonetti, meanwhile, can't imagine a life in which she isn't making art — one in which she follows her curiosity to explore ideas as they percolate, on her own terms. And she's just as excited by what she calls the "cross-pollination" that happens when an artist works in different mediums. "I think of each show I do like an essay," she says. "As opposed to just a collection of recent work, I approach my shows as a contained arena of ideas. I try to be precise. There is still overlap from one show to another because my interests are reoccurring." Where will her creative curiosity take her next? Stay tuned.


Veronica Zaretski is a writer covering arts, culture and technology.