Q: What about the importance of vision in your training in the Navy has helped you be able to see what you want to create in your art? (Question from “Arte Realizzata”)
A: I continue to reflect on what my experiences as a Naval officer contributed to my present career. Certainly, I learned attention to detail, time management, organization, and discipline, which have all served me well. I keep regular studio hours (currently 10:00 – 4:00 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) which I understand is rare among artists.
Prior to joining the Navy, I had financed my own flight training to become a commercial pilot and Boeing-727 Flight Engineer. However, my Naval career consisted entirely of monotonous paper-work jobs that were not the least bit intellectually challenging. Finding myself stuck in jobs that reflected neither my skills nor my interests, I made a major life change. When I left active duty at the Pentagon I resolved, “I have just resigned from the most boring job. I am going to do my best to never make BORING art!” Other than this, I an hard-pressed to pinpoint anything the Navy contributed to my art career.
Comments are welcome!
Q: What makes you drawn to face masks?
A: For me a mask is so much more than a mask. It is almost a living thing with its own soul and with a unique history. I always wonder, who created this mask? For what purpose? Where has it been? What stories would it tell if it could? In my current “Bolivianos” series I feel as though I am creating portraits of living, or perhaps once living, beings.
In a way the masks are a pretext for a return to my early days as an artist. When I resigned my Naval commission to pursue art full time, I started out as a photo-realist portrait painter. The twist is that this time I do not have to satisfy a client’s request to make my subjects look younger or more handsome. I am joyfully free to respond only to the needs of the pastel painting before me on the easel.
Comments are welcome!
Q; What was the spark that got you started? (Question from Barbara Smith via Facebook)
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!
Q: Travel is an essential aspect of your work. How do you decide where to travel next?
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!
Q: How many studios have you had since you’ve been a professional artist?
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!