Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Speaking Engagement

Rob and I were asked to speak to Women's Issues Network (WIN) on Monday about our art. It was an interesting process for me to try to summarize how I got to where I am in my art and how and why I make the things I make! I showed images of some of my earlier art as well as how the pieces changed after visiting Montana. Here's the outline I followed when I spoke:

One of the issues we as women face is—outside of our relationships with other people as wife, mother, daughter, co-worker—what makes US happy? What recharges our batteries? What makes us want to laugh with joy? Six years ago, I discovered that creating art was what did that for me. It puts me in a space without concern for time or to do lists or the latest headlines on the news. The more hours I can be in my art studio, the happier I am. So let me tell you about my passion.

My artwork in the beginning was more traditional collage, making compositions out of old photos, art papers, maps, Viewmaster reels, book pages, layering them with acrylic medium and sealing the final composition with another coat of acrylic medium. I was trying to evoke a sense of nostalgia or journey with these pieces.

Then in 2009, I went to visit a friend who had recently moved to Montana and she took me to Yellowstone National Park and through some of the many mountain ranges in Western Montana. I flipped out! I came home with hundreds of photographs and a desire to make art about this amazing place.

I wanted the art to be more than the photograph, so I started altering the photos digitally to have a more painterly feel, a scratched surface or enhanced light or color. Then I’d take prints of the altered photos and tear or cut segments from those variations to piece together a new scene.

As a result, the artwork becomes more of a recollection or glimpse of a place. Possibly looking like a painting or photo from a distance, then as you look closer you see the cuts or tears, and then even closer you might find bits of text or ledger paper or actual grass or pine needles as part of the surface. Most recently I’ve been shredding the prints by hand or with a paper shredder and building the composition out of lots and lots of strips of paper.

Rob and I have been to Montana three times since my initial visit. I love working with the photos we’ve taken, remembering the sounds, smells and feelings of being in nature. Through my art, I’m hoping to bring those feelings of peace, stillness, and joy to the viewer. When someone responds so strongly to my art that they want to purchase it and take it into their home, it’s an inexplicable feeling for me. I’ve been writing the word JOY on the surface before I start applying the imagery hoping that is what people will feel when they look at the work. We all need to find the JOY in our lives, and making art does that for me.