I am an artist.
That’s the answer I give when people say “What do you do?”
But, saying you’re an artist is like saying you’re an office worker. Or a human. It’s a ridiculously broad answer – perhaps an answer that, for my part anyway, needs some retooling. Really, when I stop to think about it, I’m an explorer. It just so happens that the results of my explorations are ‘art’.
For the last 12 years I have been very interested in place and identity – the ways in which the places we work, play, live, and learn affect who we are, and the ways in which we – in turn – affect those places. I have painted portraits of people in situ, their settings and their personae inextricably and obviously bound. I have also painted a wide range of ‘scapes’ – city, land, sky, mind. Most recently, most of my ‘scapes’ paintings have been of urban settings – or of the odd and uncomfortable, liminal spaces between the urban and the other-than-urban.
Increasingly, however, I’m called to consider my own ties to place rather than the nearly complete lack of ties to place I experienced as a result of my childhood in a military family that moved quite frequently. I have begun to think about the ways in which the artwork and crafts completed by members of my family for generations before me tie me to Appalachia and, far before the arrival of my ancestors, to places beyond the shores of what we refer to presently as The United States.
What has arisen is a series of works that are initially painted in a traditional manner – oil on canvas or panel – but are then converted to stitching (needlepoint) patterns. I’m fascinated by what happens to the ‘feel’ of the work when the very masculine form of the initial artwork is translated into what has been considered a very feminine form (needlework). This line of exploration has led me to consider the ways in which landscapes are gendered – and the ways in which artists’ depictions of them are gendered (and empowered – or not) as well.
In addition to all of this, I’m led to think about the relationship between craft and place – and the gendered nature of craft – even in this day. So, on I go – exploring.
The next time someone asks what I do, I suppose the best answer might be – “I explore places.”