Q: Having worked as an artist for more than three decades, you and your work finally are becoming well known. Do you ever receive fan letters?
A: Yes, I do hear from fans. Recently I received the hand-written letter pictured above. It’s from a well-read inmate in a Virginia prison. I chuckled when I read it because Glen was taken with an old pastel painting of mine called, “He Lost His Chance to Flee”!
It’s a lovely letter. I’m touched to know that my work is inspiring people to think about and make art!
Comments are welcome!
A: In the mid-1980s I was in my early 30s, a lieutenant on active duty in the Navy, working a soul-crushing job as a computer analyst on the midnight shift in a Pentagon basement. It was literally and figuratively the lowest point of my life. Remembering the joyful Saturdays of my youth when I had studied with a local New Jersey painter, I enrolled in a drawing class at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. Initially I wasn’t very good, but it was wonderful to be around other women and a world away from the “warrior mentality” of the Pentagon. I was having fun! Soon I enrolled in more classes and became a very motivated full-time art student who worked nights at the Pentagon. As I studied and improved my skills, I discovered my preferred medium – soft pastel on sandpaper. Although I knew I had found my calling, for more than a year I agonized over whether or not to leave the Navy. Once I did decide, there was another delay. The Navy was experiencing a manpower shortage so Congress had enacted a stop-loss order, which prevented officers from resigning. I could only do what was allowed under the order. I submitted my resignation effective exactly one year later: on September 30, 1989. With Bryan’s (my late husband) support, I left the Navy that day. So I think of myself as having been a professional artist beginning on October 1, 1989. I should mention that I remained in the Navy Reserve for the next 14 years, working mainly at the Pentagon two days every month and two weeks each year (commuting between New York and Washington, DC after I moved in 1997). Finally on November 1, 2003, I officially retired as a Navy Commander.
Comments are welcome!
A: I take the long view and try to remember that rejection is an occupational hazard that has plagued every artist throughout history. Even one of the most famous – Andy Warhol – had to endure innumerable rejections before his work was finally appreciated. So why should it be any different for my peers and me? Tacked to my refrigerator is a copy of a now classic letter, dated October 18, 1956. It reads:
Dear Mr. Warhol,
Last week our Committee on the Museum Collections held its first meeting of the fall session and had a chance to study your drawing entitled “Shoe,” which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.
I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collections.
Let me explain that because of our severely limited gallery and storage space we must turn down many gifts offered, since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently.
Nevertheless, the Committee has asked me to pass on to you their thanks for your generous expression in our Collection.
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Director of the Museum Collections
P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the Museum at your convenience.
I especially chuckle at the P.S. as, surely, here we have one of the biggest blunders by a museum professional in history!