May is the beginning of crazy season for me, both personally and artistically. I'm immersed in carving a new round 28" diameter linocut, with a plan to have two more done by the end of the month. I was asked by a friend to write something to be sent out to the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington, and when I wrote this it was on the eve of graduation at Indiana University. So while I'm carving and printing...I give you my thoughts on Art & Limits.
It is graduation season again.
After two decades of life in Bloomington, this time of year is filled with
speeches to graduates where they are encouraged to embrace the unlimited
opportunities before them. Yet in my life, it has been the limits that have been
My time in Bloomington as a faculty
spouse began with the rude awakening that my Masters in Public Administration
was unlikely to yield a job with a salary that would offset quality child care
costs for my infant daughter. Two years later our son arrived and I focused my
energies on parenting. We made a great deal of art together, and I discovered
that I thoroughly enjoyed the process. Later, public school hours allowed me to
take one IU Fine Arts course each semester – losing myself for a few hours each
day in graphite lines or color theory paintings.A last minute schedule change led me to a printmaking
survey course, and I was hooked.
A few more IU courses followed, but
it was becoming clear that it would be difficult for me to get a BFA in
printmaking, both financially and in terms of our family. I decided to stop my
time in the academic world, and retreat to making art in my basement.
My tiny windowless basement yielded
many limits. Lack of special ventilation required me to avoid toxic processes.
Relief printmaking was the obvious choice, and happily this was a technique for
which I had an affinity. Non-toxic cleaners, plus mineral spirits restricted to
the garage, meant that I could print in the basement. Carving was done in the
kitchen filled with natural light.
Finishing off the internal rod and end cap for a roller. All women should know how to use power tools!
The lack of a press meant I was on
my way to developing carpal tunnel syndrome – as I tried to print oil-based ink
in onto thick cotton rag paper by hand. Employing the family motto – “How hard
can it be?” – my husband found plans on the Internet for an etching press made
of recycled steel.This began a series
of treks to local scrap yards searching for the perfect well pipes and flat
steel. I learned to work metal with a lathe and band saw. A year later we
hauled the press, piece by piece into the basement.
Several years of trial and error
followed. I keenly felt the absence of artistic community and guidance, and
began to search for resources. A weekend workshop with printmaker Karen Kunc
proved transformative. There were still many other questions, however, and I
developed valuable on-line contacts as I searched for answers to the multitude
of process questions that arise with printmaking.
It took me a long time to create a registration system that made things line up consistently most of the time.
Many artists benefit from times
away – from residencies or other travel where they immerse themselves in new
situations and their art. While I was able to travel to many new places, it was
always done at the breakneck pace of a young family. I learned to employ my
camera during the day, and a journal at night, to capture things that
interested me. At home, I traveled the world on Google Earth, seeing places
that I will never get to visit in person. I learned to appreciate the very
immediate world around me, from the fiddleheads at the front door to a frozen
lake in the Deam Wilderness.
Finally, the limits of geography
have meant that I’ve had to learn about social media with a steep learning
curve. Blogs, websites, and social media marketing fill a good portion of my
artistic practice now and I can almost feel my middle-aged brain cells being
stretched in new ways.
Limits. They focus my work to what
is near or what I can see on my computer screen. They make me create with what
is at hand and is affordable. They force my introverted self to reach out to
the unknown world in new ways. The result is more rich and abundant than I
could have ever predicted. For this, I am truly grateful.
If you are in Indianapolis this weekend, be sure to say hello to me at the Broad Ripple Art Fair. I'm in Booth 430 in the Artists Green.
In June, there are two ways to see my latest work: