Wednesday, February 24, 2010


In a few weekends I am going back to my college as a guest artist. Their annual art show, Project Eve, is a celebration of women in the arts. Excited by the mother/daughter lineage, they invited Jennie to come as well. There will be a number of other events including some demos and talks to the ceramics classes, a "Career Services" event, and an article in the newspaper. I am excited to head back to my Alma Mater and share what little bit I've learned from being out of the "fold" and a part of this great big world of ours.

In the flurry of activity before we go (glazing, firing, profiles, questions, event details, etc.), I had the opportunity to answer some questions regarding the upcoming event. One question was obvious, given the focus of Project Eve: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the arts? Now this got me thinking quite a bit about labels and led to a great discussion at the dinner table last night. What does it mean?

When I first sat down to answer that question, I started in on vague ideas - women communicate differently, women have a different perspective, etc. But the more I wrote, the more unclear I became. The truth is, I don't think about it. My artwork stems from my being which is made up of various parts: my personality, my experiences, my race, my place in time, my economic status, my religion, my 'female-ness', my age, etc. I am a woman and in that reality, I am an artist. It is not a platform for some sort of ideology.

I see many who pick up on one aspect of reality and bring it to the forefront of all they do. Suddenly all of the "various parts" are flattened for that ONE aspect. It becomes a driving force for them, it becomes an ideology. Their artwork becomes one dimensional, ignoring the facets of life that make appealing artwork.

I believe that artwork can speak volumes because it has a being of its own, made up of various parts, like a human. My religion is a part of me that informs my purpose and worldview; I don't need to plaster crosses on my pots. My place in time informs much of how I work and my understanding of the world. Yet great art is timeless, transcending the time period to speak truths about human nature and the world. My gender is a part of me that has given me certain experiences and it may subtly show itself in my work; I don't need to plaster female symbols on my drawings. I think it is partly a lack of self confidence that leads to these ideologies. People do not seek to know themselves, to know what they think and why they think it, leading to a blurry self image. Harping on one facet of life gives a clear path, though limited and ultimately mundane.

So, yes, I am a female in the arts but I am also a runner in the arts, a Christian in the arts, a hiker in the arts, a young adult in the arts ... and eager to see the unique work that comes of this ever changing combination.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crossing the Line

WIRE! No, I am not taking up the high wire! I found a great medium for my love of line. I'm drawing with wire! I have been working with wire to capture the essence of the lines that make up a human face. I wrote about line in a previous post and have really gotten into working with wire, thick and thin, to achieve those essential lines I described. My wire sculptures are one continuous piece of wire. This really challenges me to make proper connections (seeing where things can connect even if there isn't a visible connection in reality) and keep it simple enough to envelope a definite character. I don't use any tools, only my fingers, so that there are no inorganic crimps in the wire. One of my favorite elements of the final product is the shadow that each sculpture casts on the paper behind it.

I sold my wire sculptures for the first time at our annual show of Fall 2008. I was absolutely delighted at the response and have had a small selection (as they are quite time consuming!) at each show since then. Last week I "premiered" some on my Etsy page and have already made a sale. It is a proud moment when other people recognize and appreciate elements that I see in what I create ... very similar to the feeling I got when I was a teacher and my students finally grasped a concept or when they proudly showed off their hard work to their parents. I think it bolsters my sense of purpose, knowing that I have successfully communicated, through any means, to another human being. This is what creates fellowship, community, society; it is what brings us out of the isolation of ideas in our own minds and connects those ideas to the reality that is our fellow man.

Enjoy the slide show of amateur photos of my wire sculptures below!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gretchen and Edie

I often tell people that I chose not to go to art school because I've spent my life as an Art major. My family, on both sides, has art running through the genes. So, really, I can't help myself.

I grew up with original works of art on our walls, my attention drawn to their styles, their differences. Often the youngest at family gatherings, I listened as my family noted colors, shapes, details, and compositions. From a simple walk around the neighborhood to a historic home tour to a camping trip, I naturally gravitated towards trying to see what drew my eye, seeing beauty in a seed pod, a painting, a wrought iron gate, a pattern in the sidewalk, the way the wind caused a tree to bend...

Trips to "Grandma's house" always encouraged this appreciation of beauty. Both of my Grandmother's, Edie Coffin and Gretchen Quie, were professional artists, visibly producing, growing, and challenging themselves in their work. Paintings hung on the walls and sat on easels. Handmade paper, woodblocks, illustrations, hand thrown pots, and designs for murals made my head spin in all of the creativity.

I can remember Grandma Coffin, with her easel set up on the dinning room table at the beach house. I watched her, with her watercolors and brushes, sweeping the paper with washes that suddenly became the stormy sky outside. She sat with me and showed pictures from her painting trips to other countires, the paintings in the pictures now completed and hanging on the wall or in a gallery. I sat with Grandma Coffin and her painting "buddies" listening to them discuss the effects of this color or that stroke, watching them draw the world around them. (Self-portrait Squares by Edie Coffin)

I can remember going to Minnesota to visit the Quie side of the family. Grandma Quie always had projects for us. Once we were driving home from an event and we passed a dock full of fisherman. Grandma Quie made a u-turn, drove down to the dock, and got out to ask the fishermen for a small fish. We took it home, rolled it with blue paint, and pressed it onto a piece of paper. I still have my fish print, numbered, signed and matted. (Two Men by Gretchen Quie)

These women were not weekend painters, they were artists because they were created to create. Each of them drew people's attention to a different way of seeing, to the details in a world full of interest.

The following are merely photographs, a poor attempt to capture the qulaity of the paintings themselves. Still Life by Gretchen Quie

Four Bathers by Gretchen Quie

Sketch of a woman by Gretchen Quie

Vase by Edie Coffin (a study of a pot!)

Woman by Edie Coffin

Baltimore Harbor by Edie Coffin

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I wrote previously concerning the difficulty many people have with modern art. People do not know what they can or can not say. Many are afraid to have opinions. Yes, some of the artwork is to blame for that. But a trend in today's communication style is the real problem here.

What has happened to speaking with conviction? Why is it "uncool" to know what you are talking about or believe what you are saying? Why does it make us squirm to share a clear opinion or shift uncomfortably when someone has something to say and comes right out and just says it?

Watch this video:

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.
And let it inspire you to pay attention to your speech, pay attention to your beliefs, pay attention to your opinions. Become a real person, one who is worth listening to, worth talking to. Get rid of the fluff that makes up the perpetual see-saw of so many conversations.