Tell us about your background.
I grew up just outside Philadelphia, PA in a large Quaker family and attended a private Quaker school from K-12 grades. I was in the first class at Hampshire College in 1970, a small, experimental liberal arts college, where I earned a BA in Painting. After graduation, I worked in an alternative high school teaching art and math in Brookline, MA. Subsequently, I went to Boston University for an M.F.A. At this point, I got married and started a family, so continuing to make my own work was a challenge. I have four wonderful children, who are grown now, but I have to say that raising children definitely has influenced my work!
Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.
First of all my parents, both of whom loved to make things by hand: clothes, sweaters, quilts, meals, furniture, household repairs & gardening. They were not artists, but their example of being self-motivated, enjoying the process of making things and being patient about the outcome really sunk in. Next, I would have to credit my high school art teacher, Miss Scull, and my Hampshire art professor Arthur Hoener – very skilled teachers that allowed me time to develop my own ideas & methods. Artists and genres that have influenced me include, (in no particular order): Brancusi, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Minimalism , Feminist Art, Richard Tuttle, Annette Messager, Martin Puryear, Fischli & Weiss, Rikrit Tiravanija. Also much Folk Art & Outsider Art….and there’s many more!
Where and how do you get your ideas?
Just from things I see around me everyday in the natural world and in our built environment, like twisted trees, weeds coming through a crack, seeds, shells, pipes, branches, bent packaging, bones – odd shapes or behaviors. Other ideas come from watching my(or others’) children play, unusual juxtapositions of objects, textiles, surfaces, travel, other artists’ work.
What materials do you work with? Describe your technical processes.
Currently I am using chicken wire, plaster wrap, joint compound, paper pulp, wire, screening or mesh (metal, plastic and fabric), yarn, aqua resin and sculpey. In the not too recent past I used more found objects, fabric, fiberfill, cardboard tubes, paper bags, and casting materials like hydrocal, cast stone and concrete.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?
I find two things very challenging: the first is the mental shift that is required to go from being organized, responsible and social in the day- to-day realm to a place where the outside world fades away. In this place I occupy a totally different space and attitude about efficiency, logic and completion. Then there is the reciprocal challenge of leaving the studio and functioning “normally” again! OK, my second challenge is trying to frame what I am after in words and seem like I understand what I am doing when someone asks me what my work is about. This is hard for most artists that I know. I think one still needs to keep trying to translate something that seems very fuzzy into something more defined.
The best part about being creative is that feeling of being really connected to a timeless energy. I can act on and respond to the materials at hand in a playful and meaningful way. When it’s all going well, I lose the sense that I am the one directing the process. It’s an experience that I want to repeat again and again, in spite of the inevitable failures and doubts.
What advice would you give someone seeking advice about being an artist?
-Put in the time. Go to your studio or inhabit that space as often as you can, whenever you can. Give yourself plenty of quiet time for reflection.
-Build a network of other artist friends, because you will really need their support, responses, examples, critiques, referrals, etc., especially when you leave the structure of your institution.
-Go see as much art (“in the flesh”) as you can & travel as much as you can.
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