* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
For some artists the studio becomes like a temple, a place that becomes invested with a sacred energy. I was looking at a book recently called Artist at Work. It featured the studios of several well-known American artists. In almost every case the space reminded me of a chapel in a cathedral. The physical, emotional, and even spiritual elevation the space created contributed to the work.
This is the home turf of your creative space. A space that stays undisturbed from the rest of daily forces. It stays open for your arrival. When you walk in you acquire a heightened readiness to begin. Your dining room table that must be cleared off for the evening meal will require more energy from you each time you begin. but a studio collects energy and focuses it, ready for your return. That space may be your garden, the view behind the house, or a desk in a bedroom that is reserved for your creative work. But it will help to secure it. It is your temple, the place where you focus your energies to express yourself. Your creative home base.
Ian Roberts in Creative Authenticity: 16 Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision
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A: Arguably, life in New York provides an artist with direct access to some of the best international art of the past, the present, and probably the future. It is possible to see more art here – both good and bad – than in any other American city.
Just pick up any local magazine and scan the art listings! Our problem is never that there isn’t anything interesting to see or do. It’s “how do we zero in on the most significant local cultural activities, ones that might contribute to making us better artists?”
Certainly a visual artist’s work is consciously and unconsciously influenced not only by what she sees in museums and galleries, but by walking around the city. That’s partly why I am an inveterate walker. I never know what amazing things I am going to see when I leave my apartment.
Although living in New York City is a rich and heady mix for anyone, it is more so for sensitive artists. Artists are virtual sponges, soaking up experiences, processing them, and mysteriously expressing them in our work.
New York lets an artist ponder excellence as we see and experience firsthand what is possible. The best of the best manages to make its way here.
Undoubtedly, my own work is richer for having spent the last eighteen years in this fascinating, wild, and crazy city. For a visual artist New York is an infinitely fascinating place to live.
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A: In the early 90’s my late husband, Bryan, and I made our first trip to Oaxaca and to Mexico City. At the time I had become fascinated with the Mexican “Day of the Dead” celebrations so our trip was timed to see them firsthand. Along with busloads of other tourists, we visited several cemeteries in small Oaxacan towns. The indigenous people tending their ancestor’s graves were so dignified and so gracious, even with so many mostly-American tourists tromping around on a sacred night, that I couldn’t help being taken with these beautiful people and their beliefs. From Oaxaca we traveled to Mexico City, where again I was entranced, but this time by the rich and ancient history. On that first trip to Mexico we visited the National Museum of Anthropology, where I was introduced to the fascinating story of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations (it is still one of my favorite museums in the world); the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which the Aztecs discovered as an abandoned city and then occupied as their own; and the Templo Mayor, the historic center of the Aztec empire, infamous as a place of human sacrifice. I was astounded! Why had I never learned in school about Mexico, this highly developed cradle of Western civilization in our own hemisphere, when so much time had been devoted to the cultures of Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere? When I returned home to Virginia I began reading everything I could find about ancient Mexican civilizations, including the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, and Maya. This first trip to Mexico opened up a whole new world and was to profoundly influence my future work. I would return there many more times, most recently this past March to study Olmec art and culture.
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A: It didn’t take long to become smitten with these beautiful people. It happened on my first trip there in 1992 when Bryan and I, along with busloads of other tourists, were visiting the Oaxacan cemeteries on The Day of the Dead. The Oaxaquenos tending their ancestor’s graves were so dignified and so gracious, even with so many mostly-American tourists tromping around on a sacred night, that I couldn’t help being taken with them and with their beliefs. My studies since that time have given me a deeper appreciation for the art, architecture, history, mythology, etc. that comprise the extremely rich and complex story of Mexico as a cradle of civilization in the West. It is a wonderfully heady mix and hopefully some of it comes through in my work as a painter and a photographer.
By the way I often wonder why the narrative of Mexico’s fascinating history was not taught in American public schools, at least not where I went to public school in suburban New Jersey. Mexico is our neighbor, for goodness sake, but when I speak to many Americans about Mexico they have never learned anything about the place! It’s shocking, but many people think only “Spring Break” and/or “Drug Wars,” when they hear the word “Mexico.” As a kid I remember learning about Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and other early civilizations in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, but very little about Mexico. We learned about the Maya, when it was still believed that they were a peaceful people who devoted their lives to scientific and religious pursuits, but that story was debunked years ago. And I am fairly sure that not many Americans even know that Maya still exist in the world … in Mexico and in Guatemala. There are a few remote places that were not completely destroyed by Spanish Conquistadores in the 16th century and later. I’ve been to Mayan villages in Guatemala and seen shamans performing ancient rituals. For an artist from a place as rooted in the present moment as New York, it’s an astounding thing to witness!
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