My interest in the arts began very early; going back to my single digit years and my parents’ amazement at my ability to draw “freehand,” in the phrase of the day. In elementary school if art contests were had, they often resulted in prizes for me. In one notorious year when ‘art’ meant coloring in a pre-drawn page, I was given the page Thursday afternoon and assigned to do the coloring; then Friday afternoon the class was directed to ‘color as Linda did.’ Ahh, art it wasn’t, and while embarrassing, it did build my confidence.
High School brought the possibility of really studying art. One of my fondest memories comes from sophomore year and my sweet-talking the registrar to change my schedule from business math to junior-senior art. That was a coup! Of course there was an art club, and senior year I was president and devised all kinds of new activities to engage and enliven the group.
Music, theater, dance, poetry, all of the arts were very alive in that all girls high school in Baltimore in the early ’60’s, and so performance covers, drawings for poetry magazines, posters, stage scenery, even yearbook ‘end sheets’ in addition to regular art class assignments filled my four years.
I was in love with the ability to create, found it a useful and much valued skill and knew by then it would always be a major part of my life. Art was about creating beauty, a useful kind of beauty and I believe that simple reality remains at the root of my understanding of art. And the words on the art room bulletin board (never changed in four years and so I remember it to this day), “Art is Right Making,” underscored that.
When Nancy Ori invited me into a collaboration with her, I was very skeptical. I truly did not see how we could collaborate in any meaningful way. But continued conversation over several months developed into an idea about which I am genuinely excited.
The review of my own journey in art, beginning at the very beginning, was quite shocking. It opened up to me the reality of just how firmly rooted my work has been in my earliest approaches and understanding of art. As each of the installments are published, I invite you to consider your own life’s journey through art, if that is appropriate, or through some other specific focus.
Even as we will have a link to Google Docs with the entire presentation from both of us in the Newsletter, and I will feature Nancy’s reflection in each of my newsletter, my Journal, for each subsequent month, will include my own installment for that month with a few additional comments.
I hope this conversation proves insightful and beneficial for your own beginning to this year.
The Holidays celebrated at this time of year find nearly everyone tapping into her/ his inner artist. No matter the tradition, creativity flows:
But I have seen the creative spirit alive many-fold this year in efforts to compensate for our quarantine. The ever-fun, “Ugly-Christmas-Sweater”party to raise funds for a good cause was replaced in one instance with cookies decorated to rival Ugly-Christmas-Sweaters.
Some families have revived the age-old craft of cutting paper snowflakes. It seems there are multiple places to visit online to get you started. Someone suggested this to be an especially good one.
I personally delight in being part of the creative swirl as soon as the Calendar flips to December. Much of what the Studio presents at this time of year is very different from my usual focus and allows my work to add to the treasured traditions for many families.
Which is why I found it so wonderful that Papillion was willing to host Earthsongs’ Winter Market Faire, my annual Open Studio. To be able to actively participate in the season in a safe way was a real stroke of luck for which I continue to be grateful…a new, creative solution!
So while I miss terribly all of the many gatherings, performances, and events that have come to mark this season for us, I invite all to join me in this festive time of heightened creativity to apply that creative spirit in a new way to the season’s celebrations during this very unique ‘time out of time’ year.
In the garden Autumn is a season of removing, of taking away. On the farm, it is a time of harvest; for the gardener, it means a cutting back so flowering plants can consolidate and renew themselves through the colder season. For the farmer, it means gathering up the produce and grain, so they can be used to nourish.
It seems most appropriate then that this month I brought to conclusion my time as a teacher, ending 25+ years in a formal classroom, teaching levels from pre-K through college (So amusing to have been called ‘Professor’) followed by 25+ years giving workshops, teaching in the studio and in varieties of informal spaces and leading arts organizations. My hope is that this new phase will produce both a harvest of renewed creative energy, even as I now give consolidated focus to what my mind and hands do directly with the the clay, to the sculpture I create.
My studio practice is now all.
While I found all that has gone before exciting and so very appealing…I loved engaging with ‘human clay’ as much as the earthy stuff…I do look forward to this new moment with great eagerness.
Earthsongs lives in the midst of a ‘handkerchief garden,’ a small plot, front back and side, that Nino and I tend with great care. So, I understand the season from the gardeners’ point of view: all quiet, just the structure, the ‘good bones’ of the space making themselves known, as well as all the physical labor it takes to bring it to this point of quiet.
With my Dad hailing from a farm in the Heartland, I claim something of the farmer in my genes as well. And so I look at this time as one that will produce a ‘harvest of fruition,’ a time that will allow me to create in new and exciting ways, that will be nourishment to not only myself, but all who will encounter my work.
Someone cleverly remarked that the Pandemic has reduced us to the same lot as Peasants living in the Middle Ages:
“Bake Bread, Avoid the Plague, Revolt Against Tyranny.”
How true! I laughed.
…but it brought me to think about the inherent connection all of us have with all those humans who have gone before. And specifically for me, my connection with all those craftspeople, sculptors, potters, those whose skill adorned public and religious structures, even those who painted murals on the rock walls of the caves of Altamira and Lascaux.
Every day in the studio pushes me deeper into an understanding of what art is and what it is all about. The Dutch artist Frederick Franck describes it this way,
“Art is neither a luxury nor merchandise, and far from a hobby. Art must arise from regions fathoms deeper from the deepest recesses of the human Spirit. It springs from the maker’s core, as if it is to touch the core and the very truth of the one who confronts it.”
So while I toil away at 242, creating functional sculpture hopefully to bring beauty to individual residences, my real effort is to infuse the core of life into each work. And while I have a prominent piece of wall sculpture for sale in Papillon, it is there with the express purpose that someone will recognize something of their own spirit in that work and allow it to resonate in their home.
Kafka tells us, “Art is a nothing that is everything,”
I think most of us have a sense of that. Art distinctly changes the energy of a place. I tell my clients who commission work that they are “my Medici;” they make it possible for me to create. To commission a piece of art is inherently different from simply purchasing any other object, a pair of shoes, a kitchen appliance. Those may well make life more comfortable, easier, but they do not deal with a matter of ‘soul.’
It was a comfort to remember that while many were doing the “bread baking” thing, there were also…even back then…many others who were engaged in creating art, that “nothing” which is everything.