A: If I do say so, composition is something I’m known for. During the months I work on them, I devote many hours to looking at the painting on my easel and figuring out how to move the viewer’s eyes around in interesting ways. Everything you see is carefully worked out after hundreds of studio hours. Finished pastel paintings always have an inevitability about them. Change one detail and the entire composition is thrown off.
A: I love this question! I remember being impressed by Ursula von Rydingsvard’s exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts a few years ago. What stayed with me most was her wall text, “Why Do I Make Art by Ursula von Rydingsvard.” There she listed a few dozen benefits that art-making has brought to her life.
I want to share some of my own personal reasons for art-making here, in no particular order. My list keeps changing, but these are true at least for today.
1. Because I love the entire years-long creative process – from foreign travel whereby I discover new source material, to deciding what I will make, to the months spent in the studio realizing my ideas, to packing up my newest pastel painting and bringing it to my Virginia framer’s shop, to seeing the framed piece hanging on a collector’s wall, to staying in touch with collectors over the years and learning how their relationship to the work changes.
2. Because I love walking into my studio in the morning and seeing all of that color! No matter what mood I am in, my spirit is immediately uplifted.
3. Because my studio is my favorite place to be… in the entire world. I’d say that it is my most precious creation. It’s taken more than twenty-two years to get it this way. I hope I never have to move!
4. Because I get to listen to my favorite music all day.
5. Because when I am working in the studio, if I want, I can tune out the world and all of its urgent problems. The same goes for whatever personal problems I am experiencing.
6. Because I am devoted to my medium. How I use pastel continually evolves. It’s exciting to keep learning about its properties and to see what new techniques will develop.
7. Because I have been given certain gifts and abilities and that entails a sacred obligation to USE them. I could not live with myself were I to do otherwise.
8. Because art-making gives meaning and purpose to my life. I never wake up in the morning wondering, how should I spend the day? I have important work to do and a place to do it. I know this is how I am supposed to be spending my time on earth.
9. Because I have an enviable commute. To get to my studio it’s a thirty-minute walk, often on the High Line early in the morning before throngs of tourists have arrived.
10. Because life as an artist is never easy. It’s a continual challenge to keep forging ahead, but the effort is also never boring.
11. Because each day in the studio is different from all the rest.
12. Because I love the physicality of it. I stand all day. I’m always moving and staying fit.
13. Because I have always been a thinker more than a talker. I enjoy and crave solitude. I am often reminded of the expression, “She who travels the farthest, travels alone.” In my work I travel anywhere.
14. Because spending so much solitary time helps me understand what I think and feel and to reflect on the twists and turns of my unexpected and fascinating life.
15. Because I learn about the world. I read and do research that gets incorporated into the work.
16. Because I get to make all the rules. I set the challenges and the goals, then decide what is succeeding and what isn’t. It is working life at its most free.
17. Because I enjoy figuring things out for myself instead of being told what to do or how to think.
18. Because despite enormous obstacles, I am still able to do it. Art-making has been the focus of my life for thirty-three years – I was a late bloomer – and I intend to continue as long as possible.
19. Because I have been through tremendous tragedy and deserve to spend the rest of my life doing exactly what I love. The art world has not caught up yet, but so be it. This is my passion and my life’s work and nothing will change that.
20. Because thanks to the internet and via social media, my work can be seen in places I have never been to and probably will never go.
21. Because I would like to be remembered. The idea of leaving art behind for future generations to appreciate and enjoy is appealing.
A: For my current series, “Bolivianos,” I am using as source/reference material c-prints composed at a La Paz museum in 2017. I began the series by picking my favorite from this group of photos (“The Champ” and later, “Avenger”) before continuing with others selected for prosaic reasons such as I like some aspect of the photo, to push my technical skills by figuring out how to render some item in pastel, to challenge myself to make a pastel painting that is more exciting than the photo, etc. I like to think I have mostly succeeded.
At this time I am running low on images and have not yet imagined what comes next. Do I travel to La Paz again in 2021 to capture new photos? This series was a surprise gift so I am reluctant to deliberately chase after it knowing that ‘lightning never strikes twice.’ Will travel even be possible this year with Covid-19?These are questions I am wrestling with now.