I'm sending you my words about my college years at Alfred because of the bones I collected while there. I still have them. I never found your signature cow skull. Mostly deer and cow vertebrae as well as a cow pelvis. I thought of your painting when working with the fossil dinosaurs and turtles at the American Museum of Natural History. I thought of you, years earlier, Georgia, when I decided not to have children while still in college and to dedicate my life to art-to my own painting as creator as well as the role of assistant curator, writer and connoisseur. I decided that I wanted to live a life that was thoughtful, emotional and critical every day in the studio or while viewing art in galleries and museums. Here are some thoughts about being a young and idealistic art student. I yearned to create works that were both personal and impersonal simultaneously. I yearned to create objects that provoked a visceral, gritty meditative state in the viewer. And that still is my goal today. Joy resulted after months of turmoil and anxiety were transformed into objects of visual quality and spirituality.
Walking and talking to my closest friend, Sarah Schantz, through the village and the countryside of Alfred, where I am today, I regularly discussed the transmission of integrity to the materials. I felt with my philosophy I was on my way to achieving a signature statement and would eventually assume a place in the contemporary art world. I didn't know at the time that my philosophical musings and my search for integrity would allow me to be employed as an artist in the museum world and nurture those whom I thought deserved recognition for their personal visions. I very much believed in a personal integrity that communicated across cultures and looked for integrity's transmission in other student's works while in school and in my Hoboken and Jersey City years in my peers' works. I believed that I, even if a beginning artist, understood what visual integrity felt and looked like. I was in training to be an artist since I was quite young. My mother exhibited her painting at the Memorial Art Gallery’s outdoor art show, the Clothesline Art Show, every year. It was a highlight of the year for me. I liked the art and exhibiting artists more than our treat of cotton candy, unusual for a girl my age. I was happy to be my mother's daughter. I was proud. Art was the one area in which my mother treated me with a special kindness and possibly even some respect. My father did not understand the arts that deeply and my mother enjoyed my company and intellectual stimulation in my newly chosen field.
Being isolated in Alfred was conducive to developing my own vision and aesthetics as there were few distractions other than the maturation process of young adulthood. There were no museums or galleries off campus to distract me from my serious quest to create my own signature style. Time was what I had, along with the natural world of beauty and space. I was passionate about my collection of deer and cow bones, weathered from the harsh climate of the long winters of Alfred and I worked in the studio until late evening daily. I was working on paper with pastel and approached the paper by slowly musing before I made each mark. These works were visual prayers. I prayed for universal peace when I made each delicate mark with the pastel and saw each floating image inspired by a chicken's spine as an individual country. While I did not produce that many works as a student I produced imagery that even after forty-five years I yearn to create again. The essence of what inspired me then in rural New York state still inspires me even though I've had thirty years of urban life as my primary experience. And now, in my mid-sixties, I have been able to move back into the countryside, living in upstate New York’s Adirondack Park, with a studio surrounded by a hayfield.
The life presence underlying our biology even now inspires me to create visceral imagery I believe to be reflections of our world. Art is my natural world. My own painting as well as the art I embrace and make part of my own being. While I do not see glorious skies or beauteous forests daily, I do experience the abstract scapes and marks of one of my canvases. I feel its rich impasto between my toes much like mud or sand. I walk through the image. I breathe in the color. It fills my lungs and my veins, pulsating through my system. I revel in painting. I believe an ethereal paint film to symbolize the life force that comprises our unique histories. I believe a painting's surface to be consciousness itself. I think color is magnificent. It can be ugly. It can be decorative and pretty. It can be shy. It can be bold. My colors are my words. Painting seriously and communing with tough art is as profound as a religious experience that for me cuts across denominations, races and maybe even nations. It is my escape from trivia. I believe serious art to be visual philosophy; visual poetry; visual prose.
At Alfred we were exposed to the philosophical basis of contemporary visual art but were never advised to try to be part of the dominant mode. There were many graduate student glassblowers and potters on campus setting the tone that art was both an old tradition as well as being current and hip to the latest art world fashion. Iridescent glazes were very popular on campus while I was there yet the potter's wheel was such an old tool. Was this tension between the old and the new the beginning of my interest in dichotomy? Of our "divided self"? We created our works in a small village yet I was ambitious. And wanted my painting to be seen by many. My future arena I saw as world-wide. I dressed in thrift shop clothes as my parents had my younger sisters at home to support. I wasn't at college to meet a future husband and impress my peers with my dress and style. I was there to see if I could make the grade and become a serious artist. Alfred didn't teach many techniques. My professors expected us to know how to swim. I was expected to produce meaningful statements that had power. I thought that a favorite professor was Socrates and that I was his student Plato. Lectures given to us were awe inspiring. We were participants in culture's greatness. The concept made the difference. Skill and accomplishment were sure to follow with time and hard work. Today I look at works with technical assurance and am generally disappointed by their lack of significant philosophical meaning. I find so much work to be insipidly decorative and academic. At Alfred I was taught to think by the lectures of the photographer, John Wood. While it was the newest program of the school, I didn't sign up for video. I wasn't aspiring to be part of the new wave. I "looked backward to go forward".
Georgia, when new to New York City, four years after receiving my BFA, I spent my afternoons after work looking at Sienese painting transfixed by its beauty and its fervent belief. I wandered the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I viewed religiously a wide range of cultures and thought this was substantive grist for my vision. Resiliency and faith were needed to maintain my path, in spite of little respect for a young and poor artist from society, to balance the necessary self-criticism. I've learned that the process of creation is a see saw of alternating conflicts and resolutions throughout one's life. Painting doesn't get easier for me. It is still a challenge. Yet I ultimately felt that it was a privilege to speak forcefully, while remaining independent and reflecting my own time and most importantly hybrid thought. I release myself with each new work from my myriad of ghosts.
I look back to your beginnings for strength and support today. I must ask your spirit whether you were as intolerant of Andy and his followers as I am now? An intelligent guess would be yes. Judging from your oeuvre. It is evident that neither one of us begins with a visual preconception more important than the painting process of call and response. Your imagery is less important than process and love of the visual elements.
Going to art school in the country was formative for me, as formative as my childhood years of walking and hiking with my father. It was the grandeur of the art world that drew me to New York City. I wasn't worried about being lonely in such a large city. Yet Chicago had not prepared me for New York City. As a young artist new to the city I wanted to meet older artists with bodies of work under their belt. I was afraid that my being a very distant cousin may not mean as much to you, my early role model, as it did to me, just an emerging yet very serious artist.