I was raised in a family interested in genealogy and have always been intrigued that we are both Fullers descended from Samuel Fuller. I am descended from Samuel through my great great grandmother, Lydia Fuller Weld. A good friend, Jamie Fuller, is also descended from Samuel.
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 but mostly deer and cow vertebrae as well as a cow pelvis. I also worked in a vertebrate paleontology lab for several years and thought of your painting when working with the fossil dinosaurs and turtles. I thought of you again , 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 curator, writer and connoisseur. I decided that I wanted to live a life that was spiritual, emotional and intellectual every day in the studio or while at the museums. Here are some thoughts about being a young and idealistic art student.
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 artwork and 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 peer’s 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 and I discussed the paintings at the Albright Knox Art Gallery and the Memorial Art Gallery in spite of my youth. 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–all the fences and booths of art with many strolling families. 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 philosophy 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 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 thirty two years I yearn to create again. The essence of what inspired me then in rural New York state still inspires me now even though I’ve had twenty-eight years of urban life as my primary experience. The life presence underlying biology, psychology and all peoples even now inspires me to create visceral imagery I believe to be reflections of the world.
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 and I never thought of stardom or fame. 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. It was like being thrown into the water without knowing how to swim. I was expected to produce meaningful statements that had power. I thought we were visual philosophy students. 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 was what made the difference not the skill or the accomplishment. 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 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”.
When new to New York City, four years after receiving my BFA , I spent my afternoons after work looking at Siennese painting transfixed by its beauty and its fervent belief . I believed in an art imbued with an impersonal personal touch, a big life force and thought that this was substantive grist for my vision. While I believed I had to have a resiliency and faith in order to work in spite of little respect from society, I’ve since learned that faith in my oeuvre will on good days 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, spiritually and existentially while remaining independent and reflecting my own time and most importantly a hybrid philosophy, however out of sync with prevailing thought. I think that it is important to make marks with a violence that has a psychological impact on the viewer and gives me a release from my own self.
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. Even though we’re both Fullers I was too timid to write you during those years. I was afraid that my being a 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. I’m a mid career emerging artist now and am looking forward to my first mid western exposure. If your ghost is in Ohio in March 2006 I hope you see my exhibition. If not I’ll send you a catalogue.