I received this great organizational calendar from the curator, Carolann Brown, at Lubeznik Center for the Arts, a lovely gallery and art center on Lake Michigan in Michigan City. http://www.lubeznikcenter.org/ . It was interesting - filling out the questions - so I thought I'd post it. It's always good to think about why/how we do the things we do.
-What is the intention of your work?
Variations Within a Species explores the infinite possibilities of combinations and details found in a single species. The bird shape I used in this piece is based on a goldfinch at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural History. Last year I spent time drawing and painting birds from the collection at the museum and I was surprised at how many subtle differences there were from one goldfinch to the next.
-What are your influences (historical, natural, artistic, political, etc.)?
My work is influenced by many things. I try, as I get older, to keep an open mind to all the possibilities for visual expression, rather than close off to ideas. For instance, a dear painter friend of mine, Martha Rock Keller, was about 40 years older than me, and she always kept her work so fresh and kept her mind open to the possibilities of what art could be and what could be art. She was and continues to be an influence on me. She tried to hone her work and her brushstrokes down to what was necessary….what was essential to understanding the subject, or the light hitting the subject, or the feeling of seeing the subject. So, I guess you could say that Martha is historical and artistic in her influence. Natural too, if you want to think about the effects of light.
Other artists whose work interests me, living and dead, are Magdalena Abakanowicz(sculptor), Eva Hesse(sculptor), Andy Goldsworthy(sculptor), Shawn Skabelund(sculptor, installation), Monica Wilson(clay artist), Lynda Cole (encaustic, installation), Louise Bourgeois (sculptor), John Singer Sargent (painter), Tom Thompson (painter).....really, I could go on.
Natural influences are, for me, endless. I use my camera as a way to document color, texture, shape, but rarely to shoot a photo of a place or scene in the traditional sense. It never captures the feeling of what it was like to be there, so I opt, rather, to just experience the place. I love to hike, bicycle, bird watch, canoe - pretty much everything I can do outdoors. The things I see doing those activities have an influence on my visual problem-solving.
Politically, I have many opinions, few of which matter or can be gracefully expressed in my art. But I am a feminist and feel very strongly about women’s/girl’s rights to dignity, equal pay and respect, safety, etc. (in conjunction with mutual respect, etc. for men), and that is always an undercurrent in my work. It may be as subtle as the crocheted wire in these birds, but it’s there. My grandma taught me to crochet, and she was a strong, hard-working farm woman. You could say she’s an influence.
-What is your process? Do you start with an idea, a technique, or an object?
I almost always start with a sketch. I use my sketchbook to record all sorts of stuff, like ideas from lectures I attend, funny things my kids did, things that make me mad that I just need to process in writing and lots of sketches of ideas. Some of them get made in the studio, many don’t. The sketchbook is a great place to work out ideas and methods of construction. I know many techniques of ‘making’, and I don’t rule anything out.
-Do you have an ‘audience’ in mind when you work?
I rarely have an audience in mind. It is usually an idea. The ‘audience’ is an important part of the artistic experience, certainly. There are many times, though, that I step back and try to look at the work objectively as I make creative choices. Something that might read as interesting texture to me might read as a violent treatment of the wood’s surface to someone else. So I try to solve the creative problems in a way that is consistent with, or at least complements, my intent.
-What would you like these young patrons to understand?
Working with re-purposed materials like this requires a lot of problem solving – my favorite part of making art. Practicing problem solving in art pieces gets the mind working, thinking and open to solutions not before considered. If I can think about an 'art problem' in new ways, then I not only build skills for the art studio, but I train my mind to think in a problem solving mode on a regular basis. 'Practicing problem solving' is the key phrase for my art making.