Welcome to Kathleen’s Art Blog!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My New Shop Online

Can't wait to get to my next show or can't get to any of my shows? Now, you can check out and buy some of my work on my new SHOP! Right now I have earrings, my most popular neckpiece, and my most popular purse design. I will also update the shop from time to time with new things and have sales.

So, go check it out and have fun.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Personal Myths and Wearing Art

"One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art". This is a quote by Oscar Wilde that I've known for about 15 years, but only two weeks ago decided to put as a handwritten headline in my booth for shows. Having just returned from the American Craft Exposition in Evanston, Illinois, I am struck by the many familiar and consistent comments I hear at my shows. These comments all have to do with how we as women view ourselves and how I have learned NOT to view myself, but rather as Oscar says - either being or wearing a work of art.

When customers come up to my booth, I sometimes hear gasps, often hear comments like "I've never seen anything like these!", and often get lots of questions like "Are these really purses?" or "Is that really a pin?". But then, when they really start looking at my work, the comments get personal and I hear things like, "Oh, you have to be tall to wear those neckpieces", or "I'm too tall to wear that neckpiece", or "My chest is too small to wear that", or "My chest is too large to wear that" or "I don't go anywhere to wear that" or "I wish I could wear that". Now, I realize that sometimes these comments are just ways for people to tell me that they don't want to buy my work and are moving on, but often, they REALLY like the jewelry or purse and spend a bit of time looking at everything in my booth.

I have decided that all of these comments are myths we create about ourselves and have imbedded into our identities. Maybe it's something our mother told us or something we just prefer to believe because it's an excuse to not try very hard to look nice. One of my best collectors is a petite woman (5'1" or 5'2") who wears statement neckpieces and bracelets. Another is tall and very thin. Another is extremely full-figured. They all look terrific in my jewelry and purses and they carry it well because they have the self-confidence and interest to wear art. What they also have is the courage to change and the courage to try on new things.

I see too many women who look dumpy and unhappy because they wear baggy, shapeless, or uninteresting clothes with a little tiny silver chain with a heart on it. Sometimes, spurred on by friends, they try on one of my less showy neckpieces with a silver spiral, faux stone, and silver stick on steel cable that is sophisticated and artistic in an understated way, and they find they look and FEEL terrific! Then if they buy it, they go off feeling so good about themselves. They had the courage to try on something they wouldn't normally try on and the courage to change.

When I know I look good, I also feel good. That's why even though I live and have my studio out in the woods of New Hampshire, I wear a neckpiece and/or cool earrings every day as well as put on makeup and spend time on my hair so that I'll feel good while I'm working.

The point is, being a work of art or wearing a work of art is not for others, it's for YOU.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Creative Success and Late Bloomers

Having become a huge fan of the nonfiction writer Malcolm Gladwell after reading OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS, I began reading WHAT THE DOG SAW while visiting my newly married daughter and son-in-law in Minneapolis. Minneapolis, by the way, is a wonderfully artistic and cultural city that is also a very forward-moving, bike-friendly, diverse place with LOTS of incredible restaurants. And in case you hate winters, the whole downtown has over-the-street enclosed walkways -- two to every block as well as a nice light rail system. My daughter works in the gift shop of the Walker Museum of Contemporary Art so we had a very in-depth tour. I came away tremendously inspired.

But, I digress - back to WHAT THE DOG SAW. In the chapter entitled, "Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?", Gladwell bases his discussion on a study by David Galenson ("Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity"). He describes prodigies like Picasso as rarely engaging in open-ended exploration, tending to be conceptual in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go and then they execute it. Late Bloomers, on the other hand, are experimental, searching their whole lives, wanting to hone their craft, and are often dissatisfied with their work. Late Bloomers do not necessarily start late in life and often do as much artistic endeavor in their youth as prodigies do, but their approach is different. Gladwell compares Picasso to Cezanne who even though was an artist all his life, did not have a major exhibition until the age of 56.

While reading this whole article, I kept thinking, "That's like me....that's like me....that's like me....I'm a late bloomer". Even my previous blog in which I describe my struggles as a 59-year-old artist fits the description. I've endeavored to hone my craft my whole life, still experiment with techniques, and am searching about what I want to say now. One more thing that Late Bloomers have in common is a "patron". By that he means, someone who is supportive, both financially and emotionally to the artist, someone who believes in them.

I can say here that I would not be where I am today without the support of my husband, David. Before we were married, he bought me a potter's wheel because I had taken a class and became enchanted with clay. Then he bought me a used electric kiln after we got married. Even though I have a degree in mathematics, he never told me I should be out working in a "real" job and has always told me how proud of me he is. I can also mention my mother who always said while I was getting my degree in math, "You should be taking art." I got an MFA when I was 29, indicating eventually I realized she was right.

So, I'll bet there are a lot of you who are also Late Bloomers. Just knowing there is a description of an "Old Master" that sounds like me is exciting. Struggle is all part of the process. But the most encouraging of all is ---- THE BEST IS YET TO COME.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Struggles as an Artist

Even though it's been 18 months since my last published thoughts, I have been actually thinking a lot. Since the last post, I've successfully curated a museum show, had a one-person show at Snyderman Works Gallery in Philadelphia, done a number of retail juried shows, and taught a number of workshops. So, why do I feel at age 59 like I'm still struggling as an artist?

Yes, art is a struggle for me. I feel compelled to make art all the time, I've been doing it professionally for over 30 years, and I've been doing it my whole life. Yet, I still am struggling with whether I have anything to say, what should I be saying, and how should I say it.

When I got my MFA, the most important single thing I came away with was said to me by a professor during a critique session. "Make your work personal". It wasn't all the technical knowledge and skill I took from my degree, but that single phrase, that was the most crucial thing for me. But how was I to do that? I've taken that phrase very seriously over the years and made different series of works that reflected the stages in my life, my inner struggles and feelings about the outer circumstances of life.

I did a series of sculptures based on the interiors of the houses of my midwest relatives when I was growing up, then a series of "Housewife Queens", then sculptures based on my daughters' childhood drawings, then a series on the Arabian Bedouin Women I bought bits and pieces of jewelry from while living overseas, then a series on the Village Women I encountered in Turkey when we lived there, then a series on women's faces and Biblical verses that were autobiographical in emotion (including a scream based on my own ruptured aneurysm 9 years ago). More recently I've done a series of pods, grass, buds, and moss sculptures/purses based on the woods I walk in here in New Hampshire.

While older work involved representational imagery of women, more recent work may not seem related because it is "inspired by nature" - a phrase I always detested as being trite and overdone. But, in fact, my more recent work of pods and buds is voluptuous at times, nearly always feminine in meaning having to do with seeds and perhaps the end of my own reproductive years and beginning of grandmotherhood.

But, now I'm at a standstill. Where do I go from here? Do I make sculptures of death even though I am most likely many years away from the end of my own life? How do I translate that into sculptures that are actually purses?

I'm actually feeling right now like all those years of making "stuff" in the end is just that - "stuff". I'm feeling like king Solomon right now when he said in Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and chasing after the wind". I want to still make stuff, but is it just a job to make money? Who cares in the end? I want to still make my work personal, but am struggling with how to do that right now. I am feeling the meaninglessness of worldly striving.

Art is hard work!!! If it weren't, everyone would be an artist.