If you’re not an artist, you probably don’t really know why I’d be so excited to have a solo show. It’s kind of a thing, a landmark moment, a big deal. It’s something to put on your resume or CV; it’s an honor and an achievement. It means a gallery owner saw your work as valuable enough to put on their wall for weeks at a time. And yeah, I’m super excited about all that, but I’m more excited that I get to make a sort of visual journal for anyone who might come see it. It’s my greatest hits.
A solo show will mean having 60-75 pieces of my art in one place. It’s never happened before, even in my basement. It’s hours and weeks and months of my life. More, it’s a roadmap to how I think, a chance to connect the dots in what I’ve made.
If you’ve seen the kind of work that I make, you know I’m “diverse.” In the art world, that’s not necessarily a good thing. However, if you see enough of my work up on the wall, you can begin to see how they share themes, colors, and movement, even if the materials are different. An encaustic piece shares the same kind of strokes as an oil on canvas. A resin construction has the same floral style of an ink on yupo. Fascination with construction of layers is everywhere. But I’m starting to sound too artsy. Let me break it down.
I’m what you’d call a self-taught artist, although that’s far from what actually happened. What it really means is I didn’t go to art school. I was taught by artists in the town where I grew up. I was in walking distance a pretty good museum. Summer was longer then (8 lousy weeks for my kids) and I spent quite a bit of it in art class. I took art in high school. My awesome neighbor down the street (a professional artist) gave me lessons. I volunteered teaching art at a half-way house when I was in college. I painted in my dorm room, in my first apartment, when I rented a room in a stranger’s house. I created things: a lamp from a vase my cat broke, a shower curtain from laminated poetry, a bed skirt from triangular fabric scraps. I wrote. I worked. I moved. I read. I got my MFA.
Wait. What? Here’s the bridge.
Yes, I have an MFA. It’s a studio art degree, but it is in poetry. Most people don’t even know it exists, but it is a degree that certifies (?!) that I have spent several years studying the writing of poetry. We studied structure and history and other famous poets, but we also spent required hours in workshop, listening, critiquing, editing, and putting it all out there. It was a wonderful time in the company of other people who really think about the world we inhabit. They sit with it. Then it comes out in these beautiful, gut-poking, sneaky ways.
So that’s where I’m coming from when I’m putting this show together. It’s me, untrained by a system of art. So, sometimes I use mediums in ways they maybe shouldn’t be used or make shadows the wrong color. However, it also means I have a way of looking at things as a poet. I see the underlying structure and how missing a supporting column makes you go back and look at what’s shaky. I think in building ways, putting unrelated things together to make a metaphor that rings. I understand juxtaposition, alliteration, and allusion and I paint with them.
When you look at my encaustics next to my resins, a little piece next to a huge piece, paint next to ink, try to think of them like lines of a poem, or poems in a collection. Because that’s what they are. I wrote them into being. They are how I see things: in pieces, separated, coming back together, everything loosely connected by beauty.
(That’s my big finish.)