A: If I had to select one factor, I would say, profound unhappiness with my professional life. In 1986 I was a 33-year-old Navy Lieutenant working as a computer analyst at the Pentagon. I hated my job, was utterly miserable, and moreover, I was trapped because unlike many jobs, it’s not possible to resign a Naval commission with two weeks notice.
My bachelor’s degree had been in psychology. When I was in my 20s and before I joined the Navy, I had spent two years and my own money training to become a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing-727 Flight Engineer. I had planned to become an airline pilot, but due to bad timing (airlines were not hiring pilots when I was looking for a job), that did not come to pass.
So there I was with absolutely no interest, nor any training in computers, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and completely bored. I knew I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and resolved to make a significant change. Searching around, I discovered a local art school, the Art League School in Alexandria, VA, and began taking drawing classes.
One drawing class lead to more. Within a couple of years, due to being highly motivated to change my life, my technical skills rapidly improved. Even then, I believe, it was obvious to anyone who knew me that I had found my calling. I resigned my active duty Naval commission and have been a fulltime professional artist since October 1989. (Note: For fourteen more years I remained in the Naval Reserve working, mostly at the Pentagon, one weekend a month and two weeks each year, and retired as a Navy Commander in 2003).
Life as a self-employed professional artist is endlessly varied, fulfilling, and interesting. I have never once regretted my decision to pursue art fulltime!
Comments are welcome!
A: Generally, I am most interested in exploring Mexico and destinations in Central and South American because they offer endless inspiration to further my work. I’m not exactly certain why this is the case. I DO know that I cannot get enough of travel to points south!
My 2017 trip to Bolivia proved to be crucial for my current pastel painting series. “Bolivianos” is based on an exhibition of Carnival masks encountered at the National Museum of Ethnology and Folklore in La Paz.
I had high hopes of making a return visit – along with a private tour guide – last February. However, since President Moreno resigned last November, much political instability, violence, and turmoil resulted. I would not have felt safe traveling to Oruro to see Carnival celebrations this year.
In the mean time I look forward to traveling to Chile, the Atacama Desert, and Easter Island next winter!
Comnents are welcome!
A: My process is somewhere in between those two. I work from my own set-up or on-site photographs and make a preliminary sketch in charcoal before I start a pastel painting. Thousands of decisions about composition, color, etc. occur as I go along.
Although it starts out somewhat planned, I have no idea what a pastel painting will look like when it’s finished. Each piece takes about three months, not counting foreign travel, research, and a gestation period of several months to determine what the next pastel painting will even be.
Comments are welcome!
A: I am on my third, and probably last, studio. I say ‘probably’ because I love my space and have no desire to move. Plus, it would be a tremendous amount of work to relocate, considering that I have been in my West 29th Street studio since 1997.
My very first studio, in the late 1980s, was the spare bedroom of my house in Alexandria, Virginia. I set up a studio there while I was on active duty in the Navy. When I resigned my commission, I was required to give the President an entire year’s advance notice. Towards the end of that year I remember calling in sick so I could stay home and make art.
In the early 1990s I rented a studio on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. For a while I enjoyed working there, but the constant interruptions – in an art center that is open to the public – became tiresome.
In 1997 I had the opportunity to move to New York. I desperately craved solitary hours to work in peace, without interruption, so at first I didn’t have a telephone. I still don’t have WiFi there because my studio is reserved strictly for creative work.
Moving from Virginia to New York in 1997 was relatively easy. My aunt, who planned to be in California to continue her Buddhist studies, offered me her rent-controlled sixth-floor walkup on West 13th Street. I looked at just one other studio before signing a sublease for my space at 208 West 29th Street. I had heard about the vacancy through a college friend of my husband, Bryan. Karen, the lease-holder, was relocating to northern California to work on “Star Wars” with George Lucas. After several years, she decided not to return to New York and I have been the lease-holder ever since.
Comments are welcome!
A. That is a long story. To get far away from New York for the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, my friend, Donna Tang, and I planned a two-week road trip to see land art sites in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. (Donna did excellent research).
We hoped for a private tour of Roden Crater with James Turrell, which is not easy to arrange. I had also invited my friend Ann Landi, an art critic and arts writer, to join us, hoping she might get an interview with Turrell and write an article for Artnews. Turrell has been working on Roden Crater for 30+ years so Ann was interested in seeing it too! Ann contacted Turrell’s gallery – Gagosian – but they later relayed Turrell’s refusal.
We were planning to see other land art sites. As an alternative to Roden Crater and Turrell, Ann pitched a story to The Wall Street Journal about Sun Tunnels and Nancy Holt (Robert Smithson’s wife, who as the only woman in the land art movement, has never been given her due). The Journal said yes, so Ann made plans to join Donna and me in Salt Lake City.
The three of us visited Sun Tunnels, Spiral Getty, and other sites together. Ann had a brand new point-and-shoot camera that she hadn’t yet learned how to use. I always take lots of photos whenever I travel. After we returned home, I sent Ann a few images and she asked permission to submit them with her article. I was thrilled when The Wall Street Journal requested JPEGs. It was the first time I’ve had a photograph published in a major newspaper.
Comments are welcome!