Visiting the Past

Looking forward to Juroring the Arnie Hart Student Exhibition at The Mattie Kelly Arts Center, located at my undergraduate college: Northwest Florida State College, Niceville, FL in March 2019 . . . where I took my 1st art class in 1997. Back then it was known as “Okaloosa-Walton Community College”. I was a young 27 art student and I still use those fundamentals art skills in every work of art I created.

Perspective Exercise at The OWCC Library, Drawing 1 with Professor David Owens, Fall 1997

Perspective Exercise at The OWCC Library, Drawing 1 with Professor David Owens, Fall 1997

I still use the Principles of Design Professor Owens taught me. I became so passionate about art and becoming an artist through him and, later, my Art History Classes with Dr. D. Anne Waters, deepened my artistic obsessions even further. My art advocacy started way back then, when - discontent with the ‘status quo’, I pioneered a new system for the student exhibition and even fought for it to be held in the fancy NEW galleries of the Mattie Kelly Arts Center. I didn’t know what I was doing - but I figured it out: demanding outside Jurors and even drumming up Cash Award Donors (who later left millions to the college to build a new art instruction building as our old one had, literally, DRIPPING ceilings).

Status: The American Dream, 1998, Painting I with Dr. D. Anne Waters, OWCC

Status: The American Dream, 1998, Painting I with Dr. D. Anne Waters, OWCC

It was a privilege to take Painting I & II as an Independent one-on-one course with Dr. Waters. Day one of the syllabus required focusing the entire semester on sketches from one item. I had recently the SW for my anniversary and choose a bovine skull as my subject. Each assignment required a different technique: from how to build and stretch my own canvases to full abstract (although referential) triptychs . . . I completed a series and I still use that theory to this day - developing a single item or thought or phrase into multiple works that stand alone or together.

Some people might deride community colleges, but as a woman who chose to get married young and start a family - those small, local doors opened my passion wide open. I hope that I have continued to build my techniques and I KNOW that the fundamentals I learned there have kept me in good stead all of these 20+ years.

It took me 7 years to finish my AA (I was raising 2 kids and had an additional ‘surprise’ baby), and only attended part-time and a total of 9 years to earn my Bachelor of Fine Art (1997 - 2006, first class to finishing). I was accepted into some prestigious graduate schools in 2006, but after already moving my entire family from NW Florida to the Nashville area in 2003, I decided NOT to continue my education. For me, the struggle between my responsibilities and having to choose between my family and art opportunities (such as moving to attend grad school), the stress was too much to ask of my own soul or to expect from my family.

I have had amazing avenues to expand my techniques and exhibition options, following a path of an internship with the amazing Adrienne Outlaw - leading to becoming a Studio Manager and eventually making work about the challenges of being an artist mother, such as Coping Skills and A Paxil A Day . . . one thing leads to another, and we learn and grow.

Life is full of obstacles and challenges (such as falling down the stairs of my new studio in 2009 and subsequent spinal surgeries in 2010 and 2015). It leads back to the beginning, though - doesn’t it? What drives you? What do you get excited about?

I hope I am regaining that eagerness and anticipation I had in August of 1997 when I walked through the doors of a decrepit building in Niceville, FL, sat down on a drawing horse and heard the words of David Owens: “Let me see where you are at”. We all drew an old, bent bicycle tire and I knew I had entered the gates of heaven. David Owens died less than a year later. I remember speaking at his memorial and vowing not to let his death stop us (the ragtag group of art students and himself) from making the art department better and we just formed a student art club (The Association of Visual Arts/AVA, now defunct).

I know I kept that promise . . . returning to Jury the Annual Student Exhibition, still held in those gorgeous new galleries and still based on the entry forms I made back in 1998 and knowing those art students aren’t sitting under a dripping ceiling. I may have moved away, but I did make a contribution to the arts; and, REALLY, isn’t that what matters? Making your mark (unbeknownst) and carrying forward all the foundations that have made you a stronger (hopefully, better) person.

Hibakusha (one of trio), Encaustic Mixed Media, Private Collection, Hiroshima, Japan

From Hiroshima

Traveling to Japan was a distant thought, barely even a dream, back in 2013 when I began working on the BRANDED series.

I never imagined as a young Midwestern girl (raised very Conservatively and Religiously) that I could nurture and retain and now expand an open, empathetic worldview. It isn’t my desire to say much politically (I cringe from fanatics of ANY kind), yet I yearn for a world where humans treat one another humanely. A world where raising arms is not the “go to” answer to disagreements. Which, by the way - Why Can’t We Just Disagree? Why do YOU (any group) have to beat me (or anyone else) with a stick if I don’t agree with you?

Hibakusha Trio, Encaustic Scuptures by Sher Fick

Hibakusha Trio, Encaustic Scuptures by Sher Fick

What I do know: every act of war is an atrocity.

Japan’s general attitude has shifted since immediately after the Atomic Bomb (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945). Soon after the bombs, the survivors were shunned (not marriageable material as many were sick, or assumed they would become so, that they would carry inheritable defects; basically, they were DIFFERENT and tainted). I’ve been reading on the events and aftermath for 5 years now and am happy to say that the Japanese heart softened to the Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and have embraced and even honoured them. The process of healing includes collection of witness reports (and drawings), the creation of art and, from my site in HIroshima, memorials from all over the world. The event is something to be remembered.

The exhibition Iri & Toshi Muruki: Understanding the Hiroshima Panels and Collection Highlights & Special Feature1: The Century with Mushroom Clouds/Special Feature2: Prayer at The Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art does much to put the art that has been created about not only the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing, but the subject of nuclear inspired art, into both an historical and conceptual viewpoint.

May it never be repeated.

Sculpture For Saduki, Hiroshima, Japan

Get Out Of Your Own Way

After a short mourning of "My Vintage Soul" (see previous post for details) I have gotten back on the proverbial horse/bicycle. Today I contemplated going back to bed at 8 a.m. (I went to sleep at 4:00 a.m. after playing Mahjong for 4 hours!), but instead I jerked myself directly from the front door as I waived good-bye to Claire and headed down the stairs. Into the studio. To look at the carcass:   After facing that . . . which felt very similar to viewing a newly dearly departed, I decided to work on some new techniques while I pondered what to do with the remains.  My instinct was to trash it, cremate it, send it on to its just rewards - but that is hurt and anger surfacing and some of my best works have been pieces that went 'wrong' and I had to re-work them to salvage them.  The only difference here is that it was finished to my great joy and I know any re-creation will be but a shadow of the original (such was my then state of mind). I decided to rummage through all my new supplies and chose to work with some new RF Paintsticks.  In the encaustic process I had been using, I would paint encaustic into the divots and distress marks and scrape the layers down.  It is back-breaking and time consuming work.  Can you imagine my delight when I was able to create this work within about 2 hours, start to finish, while simultaneously working on 4 others? Let me introduce you to "Traces of Time", 6"x6", Encaustic, Handwritten letter, Leather/silver watch band.   As I sit here typing this title, it occurs to me that I dealt with the very thing I was mourning - my loss of TIME.  Art is so amazing that way.  You do not even know what you are seeking, but it forms itself before your very eyes if you get your ego and brain out of the way.  Finally, after getting myself out of my own way, more works came forth.   "Run Away" 6"x6", Encaustsic, Vintage Fairy Tale pages, quickly followed the time-piece, and then came "Descent"   So, if I would only listen to my own advice I would save myself A LOT of heartache, right? I was excited to use some of the real butterfly wings Don and I had collected on our Lake Lure, NC 2006 vacation.  We came upon hundreds of butterflies hovering over puddles and upon closer inspection realized there were dozens of drowned butterflies.  Apparently some of their wings had become wet and weighed them down and they couldn't fly away.  The living butterflies appeared to hover in a mournfulness of collective spirit. Once again, my feelings are just bubbling up to be revealed in these new works . . . time, the need to 'run away', and mourning. One benefit to all the years of collecting is that I have an amazing resource of materials on hand.  To have them all, more or less, at my fingertips in the new studio is something I have never experienced before. I NEEDED those butterfly wings TODAY, and because I had taken time to unpack and sort - I knew EXACTLY where they were - safely encapsulated in U2's "All That We Can't Leave Behind" CD case. There are no coincidences.  There is only synergy.  The flow and flux as the energy transforms. Consequently (or not)!, what I ended up with today was three new completed works and the energy to begin or re-begin some other works. I now have all the butterfly wings dipped in encaustic and ready for the next 'calling', plus I infused multiple antique baby clothes for my textile version of "Ashes, Ashes", and, best of all, I found a technique that will increase my efficiency and save my body many aches and pains! Somehow, in less than one week, I have decided that this self-destruction of "My Vintage Soul" contained many valuable lessons.  I am looking forward to using these new techniques and insights to create new, and, hopefully, better work in the future. Don't forget: "I get knocked down, but I get up again - you're never gonna keep me down!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAM9diIDHqs      Chumbawamba- Tubthumping Here are a few images I took of the studio today  - I am, apparently, back in action!   Real butterfly wings (found) dipped in encaustic.     Vintage baby dresses, in the process of being infused with encaustic.   Vintage Baby Robe, infused with encaustic, hardened, standing on its own.   One shelf of collected figurines/vintage toys for future use in assemblages.   Mid-process of encaustic infusion, antique embroidered pinafore with safety pins in pocket.  
Read More

Off the Hotplate . . .

  New work, just to prove that all those sleepless hours are bringing forth something! Above is a studio image of "My Vintage Soul", still on the easel.  Here are some detail views:       I really enjoyed adding this vintage puppy's broken tail nearby . . . This series took a surprising amount of time and a surprising amount of beeswax.  Measuring 24" x 24" and approximately 7" deep, it weighs at least 50 lbs! As I was forming the rosettes from the wax infused textiles, I though of the roses my mother creates for decorating wedding cakes. As I was working on this large, focal piece, I also experimented with smaller assemblages.   This diptych of boxes includes a guardian angel and other vintage figurines. After a rather bizarre dream of GIANT "little people' peering at me sleeping (thru a window), I had this idea.  These are the oldest versions of little people I could find . . . I hope to do many more works with Little People in them.
Read More

Open Studio - Get Ready, Get Set, Go!!!

    This is my 'before' view of the studio space in July 0f 2008.  I was blessed to find a house with a walk-out Daylight Basement, including one wall of windows looking out over trees, a creek, and an empty field.   Over the months I have added massive amounts of lighting, covered the insulated walls with a patchwork of mattboard, old paintings on canvas, and tyvek.  This view is of the North end of the studio - you can see my lighting which is actually outdoor lighting with movable cans - - windows all along the right-hand side provide addition light during the day and a beautiful view of nature.  Along the left/back side of the studio I have multiple shelving units for supplies, storage of completed work. This image shows the double-sided counter-height workbench with storage that I purchased from Goody's going-out-of-business sale, they are also on casters and anchor the north central section of the studio . . . you can so the great windows on this end of the studio, as well.   My favorite spot in the studio: the wicker porch swing were I can meditate on nature right outside my window, read, research, enjoy some of my friend's artwork (see CASSIE, the shoe sculpture on the left of the window by artist John MacMullen) . . . all I need is a lampshade! Below is the South End of the Studio - future office/bedroom . . .   Side of the office/future bedroom end of the studio . . . 16'x22'  (above) Below, my last stop before art is shipped, any hanging devices, polishing, wrapping and packaging, love having a space set aside for this task . . .   Left view is of the workbench area - the central section of the studio - with lots of open space to move around . . . and storage for wood and boxes . . . of course, I have my refrigerator stocked with ice-cold Diet Cokes!     So I hope you have enjoyed the tour of my studio - - - it has been a long journey of waiting patiently, focusing on my specific needs (custom lighting and electrical outlets) and scrounging to find the perfect furniture and units for my needs - - - I have already created some new encaustic paintings and am working on several installation pieces and the space is very conducive to my creative process. I'm looking forward to continuing the improvements and organization - I can't tell you how fantastic it is after years of working in corners, garages, and dining rooms to have MY space, MY studio - exclusively FOR ART'S SAKE!
Read More