Landlocked and waiting for spring with a husband recovering from hip surgery, left few options –I could read every day, go to the gym everyday, get a physically punishing job doing retail, or wander the streets aimlessly talking to myself.. Working full-time would be going backwards and I don’t mix well with Volunteer groups due to my serious case of obsessive organization efficiency and needing to “get stuff done.”
My friend Judy came to my rescue with a better idea. I’ve written about Judy before after seeing her January 2106 show that reminded me of my own experiences of artistic angst. Her work spans over 30 years of creativity — beginning with figurative representative painting to establish her credentials as a skilled artist. She then moved on to experimenting with earthy, large-scale, bold mixed media symbolic abstracts and, most recently, evolving into lighter work that takes the me into meditative air that marries the figurative and abstract in transparent liquids, photography and everyday objects in completely new ways.
Over lunch in November, we made a plan to keep me busy and return to my love of art. Judy’s need to do this is as great as mine, but has a physical, not just a psychological source. Judy’s health slapped her in the face big time last spring. The need for a formal inventory to replace the scrambled gigabytes of photos of many sizes and qualities on her laptop that have accumulated over the years became a real necessity, not just a nice to have. Her minimalist website preserves only a small slice of the totality that defines her career and, in my humble opinion, does not do her work justice.
My assignment is to find the solution, select the best images, organize them into well documented, searchable digital collections, upload the images and narratives to keep the inventory safe, and match inventory to her collectors and curator contacts. We are both lusting after what happens next — create and publish the crown jewel, a memoir of her career in art – its making, teaching and sharing.
My assignment has become a very special and personal gift from Judy, because I am, step-by-step, learning how an authentic professional artist thinks and creates, how her experiences affect her work, how ever-present curiosity sparks a move to a new medium or approach to a subject, and how to face the challenges inherent in the business of art. As with many successful artists, she is never done; there is always a new crack in life to explore, a new way to work with a paint or paper or electronic images.
Each week we meet to discuss the pieces I am working on. I’m learning what sparks a vision, and how rework that can take days, weeks or years is essential to produce the essence of a piece. I leave our meeting, not only with a new set of images to work with, but with knowing more than any class or book could teach.
I can’t wait until we meet next week to discuss the Matisse – Diebenkorn exhibition currently at the Baltimore Museum of Art, recently reviewed by NPR’s Susan Stamberg. Although they never met, Diebenkorn took the elder Matisse as his muse and Matisse’s images as the foundation of much that drove Diebenkorn to create. Does that make Diebenkorn a master like Matisse?