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Firey Art, Hillbillies & Living Poetry

I have been a painter since I walked into the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art as a small girl holding the hand of my grandmother. I remember my first reaction to Helen Frankenthaler's color field, Elberta 1975.  “A child could do that! How can that be great art?” My early journey with art began as a struggle between realism and abstraction, maybe that’s where we all begin-- with our nose bent to the task of ability.

As an undergrad art student, I struggled with the question: What can a painting do to be useful or helpful? I found my breakthrough in a travel abroad course to Israel-Palestine—all that world art and culture saturated in one place. I found art there as a method of teaching, sharing, and enriching culture. I wanted my art to do the same. Afterward, when my Judaism professor said art was not a part of culture, I wrote my thesis on the art of the Holocaust: art’s purpose as cultural memory. The result was shared with local Rabbi’s who declared it the best paper they’d read on the Holocaust written by a non-Jew.  During this time my father went blind, unable to see my senior show. I decided to create abstract artwork a blind person could experience. I ripped canvas taken from the Jewish symbol for mourning. Then I pieced it together as I had seen early American landscape artists do at the National Gallery. I intensified the effect so the rough edges could be felt with the hands. To me, the pieced cloth echoed the struggle of the everyday tension to “piece together” a life, a family, a belief system. (Later I found artists like Lee Bonticou ). Through this journey, I first found the joy in creating abstract art. One of my pieces echoed the bright orange in Frankenthatler’s, Elberta, I called it “Tell me the color of Joy!”

Yes, I felt joy in creating abstract art, but I found my art needed longer and longer artist statements. People connected with my work through my writing rather than its visual form. Through my MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University, I found answers about the purpose I sought in my art. While studying the work of Maurice Sendak’s picture book In the Night Kitchen. The subtext addressed Sendak’s experience of losing his parents’ families to the Holocaust.  I found his artwork and story worked together as personal and communal healing. To understand how, I poured over Aristotle, Joseph Campbell, and Carl Jung. My findings: lyrical experiences (words and image) transform and heal when shared in community-- especially when archetypal symbols are applied in a new, personalized way.

In 2015, I opened New Thing Art Studio in the crossroads to begin again as a full-time artist with a purpose: to share transformational art.

Five Year Goals: This year, I sought to create a base of symbols in my art then personalize them-- a sort of Neo-Pop style. Chagall chose goats and chickens, Warhol chose stars and soup cans, I chose rabbits, and rotary phones. My five-year goal: To push my art further creating more pictorial based work, adding characters and settings to my symbols—like a pictorial language unfolding—“Illustration for Adults,” I’ve called it.  I’ve just met my one-year goal to enter Arts KC Now Showing. Next, I will continue to produce bodies of work in high quality in order to find local full-time gallery representation and eventual out of state or traveling shows. This year I entered two juried shows but will increase my entries to five a year. Among local artists, I found many that had never heard of a juried art show. I hosted two of them at my own emerging gallery and enjoyed bringing artists together to network and celebrate their work. I’d like to find out more about how the galleries work in KC. With the help of Arts KC and groups like Transformation Arts, I’ve found many new leads. I am in the process of applying to three smaller galleries right now. So I see myself participating in many group shows over the next five years. I anticipate doubling my public work through murals and sales to small businesses or non-profit installations. I’m looking forward to working with the Arts KC artopolis program and working with Arts KC fund to connect people with the arts in Kansas City. I’m excited about working with The Rabbit Hole on more installations and possibly sets at the Mesner Puppet Theatre. I see myself making progress in my art and my illustration for children in the next five years including finishing my first book of poetry and a volume of poetry for children as well.  I hope to teach classes for emerging artists at Interurban Art-house or another location. I’ve applied for a studio there in their new Post Office renovated Space coming sometime in the future and will apply on July 1st for the Studio Inc art space as well. I anticipate refining and teaching my class on developing personal symbols and unblocking creativity with groups of artists, writers, or creatives locally and might consider writing it into a book form.  In the next five years, I see myself selling much of my art on printed materials, and in décor applications for both children and adults. 

Future Plans:

As an elementary student, I attended Kansas City’s 1989 Thomas Hart Benton retrospective. His paintings vibrated with music, landscape, and color. This inspired my pursuit of an art career especially when I learned my great grandparents were part of the original Benton clan. After writing a children’s biography of Thomas Hart Benton in my MFA, I better understood his goals of preserving and presenting history and culture through an illustrative type of artwork-- to define a sense of place. Yes, I’m in the pursuit of healing art, iconic imagery, but like Benton, I want my work to continue to share the American story. I could see the billboard advertising his second retrospective at the Nelson in 2016 out my art studio window just a few blocks from his former studio in Midtown. I’ve come full circle and my future goals look like this: My primary motivation for creating work is to connect with my community in a way that is over and above pure decoration. I want to reach out in a transformative way; to ask the hard questions about our concept of community, our history, and our shared experiences of personal and cultural transformation. As a child who experienced the era of the Aids Quilt, my vision it to create works of collaborative art with the community that travel around the US that grows over time and is then curated into public viewing spaces in intentional ways: Installations or projects that become installations that share our stories with each other as a culture at large, are my big dream. Artists Inc is a great opportunity to help me access the best grants or opportunities to share my work. I need help finding people who might like to work with me on the projects. I also need training in how to present my ideas for larger projects and find the right fit for the type of work I’d like to do. I'd like leads on gaining more experience and education in the art and technical understanding of installations would be ideal. As a 2D artist, I’d work best on a team. Most specifically, I want to find grants and insight into creating art installations for kids. Of course, I want to continue to write and illustrate my folk tales or books of poems for children. Even more so, I’d like to create art installation experience for children. We have children’s theatre, children’s books, children’s clothes, why not art installations made for children to enjoy. I’d like to research opportunities to design art installations for kids and what locations are available for such work in the US or abroad and what, if any, art installations for children specifically have been done in the past. Overall, my desire is to incorporate lyrical experiences with visual art. Installations with stories to read, sounds to hear, interactive experiences, take away books and materials—visual images, tactile sensations: in essence, living poetry. I know the Artist Inc. program could set me in the best direction.

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