While walking in our fields at the end of the growing season, I notice the canary grass—its elegant lines, just the right amount of bend. A pile of tiny maple shavings lays in the dirt, the remains from our 1905 wood planer. Breakfast is over and I hate to throw out those eggshells. Can I crush them? Can I print them? Can I…? All these thoughts run through my mind—the awareness of possibilities.
Surrounded by a creative family as a child, listening to opera on Saturday while cleaning the house, the Horizon (a monthly arts publication) on hand and a mother who hand-painted a full-size circus elephant on our cellar walls, the arts were always a major influence in my life. At age 16, I attended painting classes with my grandmother, and the exposure to formal art classes holds fond memories.
After high school I submitted my portfolio to New York’s School of Visual Arts and I was accepted. I started classes there in 1974, but the pressure of trying to make a living and going to school became too great and I had to withdraw, a choice I sometimes regret. At age 25 my life took a rural turn. I moved to upstate New York’s bucolic Hudson Valley and built my own home in the woods. I met my husband and together raised three charming children while running a successful sawmill and lumber business. Though my art had been interrupted, some personal and career endeavors like renovating houses lent themselves to artistic satisfaction. However, that whispering in my ear, “Get back to studying art” never left.
With the encouragement of my family and never being one to shy from a challenge, I enrolled as a part-time Visual Art student at Ulster County Community College. I realized I had to jump through the academic hoops, which was a bit scary, especially being out of school for over thirty years! An independent study course led me to the Woodstock School of Art and the Printmaking Shop. That medium stirred a creative force in me, and with each new lesson I gained technical skills.
I wanted to learn all the printmaking techniques. After earning my Visual Arts Degree at Ulster at age 55, I continued my education and gained entrance to the College of Fine and Performing Arts at SUNY New Paltz. Once again, I could only attend as a part-time student and was accepted in the Printmaking Department. In 2013 I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from SUNY New Paltz at age 60. It was all so much fun, and I began to realize that I needed art to balance my life, finding that the work helped me through life’s challenges.
Today, as in my teenage years, art classes, workshops and instruction still affect a large part of my practice. This includes my current project, titled Absorbing, which for me further confirms the notion that as artists we are constantly influenced by our experiences. These experiences, especially later in life, have enriched me intellectually, artistically and personally in ways I never could have imagined.
These materials beg to be printed. They reveal emerging patterns while confirming the delicacy and the beauty of the natural world.
Currently, I work at the Woodstock School of Art, assisting and sharing my passion for the art of making prints. The Hudson Valley has many creative institutions; two in particular, the Woodstock School of Art and the Women’s Studio Workshop, are amazing. They both have a long history of supporting women artists and are sources of inspiration, renewal and commitment to the arts.
The best explanation for what I do is any mark-making process to create an image; whether solarplate, etchings, collagraphs, monoprints, silk screen or dye on paper. It is all about the marks, from simple to complex. As an artist living in a rural setting, I cannot help but be influenced by nature. I am fortunate to have farm fields which offer a variety of plant and organic material. The process and the resources used to create my work are equally as important as the final piece. My prints have been defined as “drawing with nature.” Those images explore the conceptual relationship between the organic and the refined.
Recently, my work has embraced the creative practice of papermaking and indigo dyeing. While not a typical technique in printmaking, I appreciate the mark-making correlation between the two. The technique is inspired by the Japanese method of dyeing cloth called Shibori. A mix of kozo, abaca or cotton pulp fibers are used to create my paper matrix. Each piece is then either folded, wrapped, tied, clamped or held.
Using my hands to generate any creative endeavor is a continued source of artistic nourishment.
Often the organic matter is then wrapped or embedded into the paper. A vat of indigo dye is prepared and the paper wraps are slowly dipped under the dye solution; all the while I monitor how the paper absorbs the color. After the pieces have sufficiently absorbed the dye, I hang them to dry using clothespins, then unfold each piece to reveal the beautifully finished product.
Each dyed piece is distinct, which allows intuitive abstract assemblages to be formed. Of late that involves persistent thoughts of how differently individuals absorb life, love and loss. In this indigo series the act of absorbing is symbolic.
Regularly, the work responds to my state of mind; this body of work emphasizes that.
Now that I’m a grandmother, my grandchildren love to visit “Nanny’s Shop” where I often listen to opera. The children march right up to my speakers and request—you guessed it—opera, and my history repeats itself. Having my own studio space affords me the opportunity to have upwards of four projects going on at the same time. It has become my magnet, a place not only to create, but also a place to switch mental gears, lower my shoulders, exhale and explore all the many works swirling in my head. What a lifelong gift to explore!