1. How long have you been in Atlanta? What brought you here?
2006. I came to Atlanta because my family is fairly close by. It was also time to leave California; I am an East Coast girl at heart - I couldn't take one more gloriously perfect sunny day. or the next 250 of them hot on its heals.
2. Did you go to art school? Do you have any degrees?
I did go to art school. Eventually. I went to architecture school first a long time ago. Then for a while I just took whatever interested me at the moment. But I decided to get a little more structured about it when I moved to Atlanta, so I now have a BFA from SCAD-Atlanta. I used my time there as a research opportunity to figure out what I should be making and to talk to people making a living as artists.
3. Tell us how you got your start as a working artist.
I only ever wanted to be two things in my life: an artist or a race car driver, neither of which I knew how to make a living at. I could draw and I was good at math, so I became an architect. I turned 40 and realized my life was probably about half over and it was time to get on with what I really wanted to do all along. I dropped out of the 9-to-5, moved to Atlanta, and went back to school. So now I'm a studio artist. And I still drive fast.
4. What are you working on in your studio now?
I'm making a liquid graphite painting for an upcoming auction at MOCA GA. I've also been really into making these tiny 1"x1" graphite paintings lately. The next big project may be some tall hanging things that I've been kicking around in my head - I've been researching hot air balloon fabric for it.
5. What is it like to be an artist in Atlanta today? How can Atlanta improve?
The artistic community here is incredibly supportive and there's a lot going on these days. Atlanta has lots of opportunities for temporary public works. It is also incredibly easy to get to know everyone from the artists working in their garage to the community arts leaders.
On the downside, Atlanta does not have a strong collector base so it's tough to feed yourself if you want to make a living through your work commercially. You'll need to find other places/cities to sell your work. I have a number of part time jobs to keep myself afloat. I'm avoiding anything that might take too much of my time. At this point in my life, time and energy are much more important than money.
6. What is the role of an artist in society? How do you see your role in this way?
Artist are ultimately making work for themselves, but the byproduct is work that gives people in general some new object or perspective to consider, ideally slowing time for just a minute, stopping them, for even just a moment, from flailing through their lives while chasing the rabbit.
I think of my work as pointing to things - hey, have you ever noticed __? or, how would it be if things were __ instead? Of all the good things that have happen to me since becoming a working artist, my favorite was finding out that 8 little paintings I had in a show kicked off vigorous debates about the roll of women in the christian/catholic church between classrooms full of seminary students. It's about getting people to think. If they talk to others about what they're thinking, that's the cherry on top.
7. What is the job of Art?
Like I said, it points to stuff, usually without ulterior motives of the commercial sort. It's not saying buy Coca-Cola! It's saying why do we buy Coca-Cola? For me, art questions values and assumptions.
8. Does Atlanta have a specific role to play for Art/Artists?
Atlanta is open. It affords us artistic-types the chance to try our hand at different things.... You're a painter. so what - do a proposal for FLUX anyway. Or go partner with a community organization to pull off some radical new thing. Atlanta is constantly reinventing itself so I think it's rather predisposed to accept that sort of movement and latitude.
9. Do you have any advice for younger artists?
Your job is to be curious. Then to do something with what you find out. It's up to you how it manifests.
Remember that just because you've been sitting in a chair staring at something for 3 days, you're still working. Making art is mostly mental work. It's hard work.
Do what you wanted to do from the start. Every time you hedge your bets (architecture!) you're heart won't be in it and it costs you time and energy in the end.
Stay focused and remember the larger goal is to make your work. Everything else on the planet will vie for your attention. Stay focused. Stay focused. Stay focused. Your life will race by you - and it goes faster the older you get, so pay attention to the choices you are making today. And stay focused. And continue making your work.
Try your hand at any and everything that interests you artistically. I found my medium of choice on a fluke. I still go play with other things - I could stumble across one that suits me even better.
On a practical note, keep your overhead as low as possible. The more you have to pay out, the more likely you'll have to find a paying job with more hours and/or responsibilities, and it will take time and energy away from your work. Set your priorities early.
And this is really important -- don't be an artist panhandler; it's not about what people can do for you - it's the other way around. Offer up whatever talents you have to make this place a more interesting city to live in. You'll be amazed at what is offered in return if you make that first generous move. This has made the most difference (plus the Focus thing) in my career so far.