meet the artist | dec. 2017
"If I were describing myself, one thing I would say is that I am an artist. But it took more than half my life to get to that point.
As a child I loved drawing simple figures from greeting cards, books and comics. Later, I filled notebooks with sketches of favorite subjects, nature — particularly trees, clothing designs and homes being built in different areas … on the ocean, on a mountainside, in the desert or a castle in Spain. It was just something I always did.
In an early job, I would check out artwork from the public library and hang it on my office walls and stare at it while I should have been working, all the while absorbing and studying art without realizing it.
I have always been able to spend long hours in art museums and galleries until I was too exhausted from thought while trying to understand why an artist did what they did or how they accomplished it. My favorite closer-to-home art museums are the Chazen in Madison and Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan and the Neville Public Museum right in Green Bay. In travels, The Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, MOMA in New York and Smithsonian in Washington D.C. are some of the major ones. I remember important installations and exhibits but sometimes just the smallest thing would strike me. In one exhibit, I was completely taken by a simple still life, which was accomplished by scratching outlines on tin. It evoked every still life I had ever seen and I found it fascinating.
So I would say I have been exposed to and loved art in all forms all my life but it never occurred to me that I could make it too. My chosen work was in accounting and later as an antique dealer so I had no intention of attending art school and by this time I'm in my forties at least.
But I saw art in everything. I learned so much as an antique dealer because I especially loved all aspects of folk art and outsider art made by ordinary individuals with nothing but a need to put something permanent on a surface or to create something from scraps and leftovers of something else, as in quilting. What those women (and sometimes men) could do to extend the life of a piece of fabric by making something useful and beautiful entirely different from its original intent is amazing to me. This quilt making is where my first inkling of possibly creating something myself began to smolder in my mind.
So with a brand new house with many large empty walls, I made my first attempt at art. Loving quilts as I did, I created a framed one made of paper to hang on my living room wall. Following the example of the frugal makers of previous eras, I did not purchase art papers but instead found interesting colors and designs in saved copies of “Architectural Digest." When an artist friend who I admired and respected saw my work he suggested I submit it to Edgewood Orchard Gallery in Fish Creek. The owner liked my work and gave me a one-woman show in her main gallery. I couldn't have had a better introduction into the art world. What an experience!
I began to use other materials and collage became my medium. After that, one thing followed another; I joined local art groups, exhibited in shows, submitted work to other galleries and did commission work through designers and ultimately won prizes and, happily and proudly, occasional purchase awards — locally by the Neville Public Museum, Green Bay Botanical Garden and NWTC.
My point of this story is to encourage anyone untrained and unschooled to make art if it moves you. Listen to yourself and take advice and compliments from artists and teachers you respect and whose work you love.
And somewhere along the way, despite no degree or training, you might also be able to say, "I am an artist."
The Green Bay Art Colony, founded in 1915, is the oldest art group in Green Bay. The Green Bay Art Colony is a woman's organization that promotes the arts in the community through exhibitions and scholarships.