I've been working through an artist's marketing program called The Abundant Artist. One of the questions we've been exploring through the course is what makes your artwork and you as an artist unique. As I look back through the years I've been making artwork one thing that stands out is the struggle to create. Early on it was a struggle to find time to create while raising young children, but that struggle was essential to me discovering myself as an artist and finding the work I needed to create. When you don't have a lot of time to make, the time you do spend creating becomes sacred and there is a distillation that occurs, forcing you to find your voice.
The next great challenge in my art development occurred when I decided to enroll in an MFA program. I was finally in an environment where I felt obligated to push myself artistically. It was a period of being allowed to explore new things artistically, but for which I was also being judged (graded) and it was terrifying. Over time, though, I found myself growing more and more confident in myself and in my artwork. This was also the period when I embraced the skills of mold-making and slip-casting, allowing myself to make these techniques my own.
About three quarters of the way through the MFA experience my greatest challenge to date came. I had certainly had challenges in my adult life: a miscarriage at the age of 24, the death of my brother, the challenges of becoming a mother and having to put my kids and my family before myself. During these challenging times I had always had the security and foundation of my marriage to support me. Then, suddenly, my husband was having an affair and I discovered that the foundation I had build the last twenty years of my life upon was being swept out from under me. I felt lost, scared, and hopeless. I was worried I would be forced to give up the degree that I had been working so hard on but refused to do so. He could take his love and support away from me, but I wasn't going to let him take away the MFA degree I had wanted for so long and had worked so hard for.
In retrospect, it was a good thing I decided not to give up on the MFA. This gave me something to focus on during a time when the rest of my life was in upheaval, though, because of the depression I was struggling with, it often felt like an insurmountable task. In spite of all this turmoil, I found a way to use my art practice to build a place of peace and stability both during the divorce process and now as I work to rebuild my life after working through severe depression. The sculptures I build that combine the slip-cast flower-like pieces with the rough “stone” bases were my attempts to create a place of strength and stability where I could focus on things that have always brought me peace like enjoying the beauty and creativity of nature through plants and flowers. This work speaks to me of perseverance more than anything. The perseverance of a plant to struggle up through difficult, rocky soil to grow and thrive.
I do hope that those who view my work are able to find a bit of peace and tranquility through it just as I was able to find a refuge during the hours I spent working on the artwork. For me, making art is often a place where I can be free of the fear, loss, and depression that has defined my life over the past four years and I am using art as a way of creating the new life that I need and deserve.