How did I end up here? (the not so short story I wrote last year for Art Fair Insiders)
I learned to use a camera and work in the darkroom as I was learning to write in cursive and ride a bicycle, and I have been on a photographic journey ever since. Looking through the lens shapes my life and experience of the world. My art, my camera, and my life are inextricable – I am fortunate.
Prior to my professional life, my focus was almost solely on my experience from behind the camera, but as I began working in commercial photography and then in film, I realized the true power the medium could have to influence (manipulate?) the viewer. During this time, I played many roles and the work was wide ranging, from photographing hamburgers for a national fast food chain, or arranging flowers for greeting card covers, to scouting filming locations for shoe store commercials. I loved the day-to-day challenges and problem solving of the field, but the goals of my clients, the advertisers, didn’t fit with my personal values. I was using my craft to sell people goods that were bad for them, the community, and the environment. I was so disheartened by this I almost put my camera down for good.
At that time (early 90’s) the career path to commercial photography seemed to be the only route to keep shooting. But I longed to get back to the beginning, the feeling I had when I first picked up a camera to explore the world around me. My desire to begin again and my love of photographic history led me to look for answers in photographic processes of the past. I returned to the start, the root of the discipline; I went back to the days of photographer as experimenter, inventor, and mad scientist. I investigated the line between science and creativity, process and concept, historic materials and contemporary technology. The artwork I have created through this exploration has been varied, but the common theme remains – experimenting with modern process while carefully studying and honoring historic techniques.
Inspired by my musician husband and the interaction provided by live performance, I hoped to find an analogous way for both me and my work to interact directly with the audience. I was looking for communication and the possibility of building relationships with my viewers, not wanting to hand off the culmination of my hard work to others to place in front of people. I suspected that art festivals might provide this, and after trying my first one I knew I was on the right track. The honesty, openness, and willingness to be vulnerable, of both the artists and the audience, were something that I had never encountered before. I returned from my first show and exclaimed to my husband, “I have found my people!”
I love the direct interaction with the communities I visit, the connection and relationship that is built when we can explain to one another what the piece means to us, to tell one another our stories. This exchange of ideas broadens and enriches both of us. It also counters the gaps between individuals that are growing wider and wider in this digital age. We can look one another in the eye and shake one another’s hand.
Over these last 13 years of doing art festivals, my artwork, my collector base, and opportunities have grown in ways I could not possibly conceive of when I first embarked on this journey. My husband, Kyle, and I now travel together to approximately 12 festivals a year balancing my shows with his performance schedule. We have built a creative life together that includes visual art, music, theater, and lots of adventures both here and abroad.
And as we have learned to create a wonderful life supported by our maturing art practices, I have become very passionate about helping others to create the life of their dreams. I hope to lead by example to those I encounter at art festivals, and have become very involved as a facilitator and consultant for Artist Inc., a professional development program for artists of all disciplines. However, ultimately I believe the best way to advocate for the arts and artists is for everyone to realize they know an artist, and to recognize that we are not an abstract idea, we are your neighbor, the person in line in your grocery store, the people creating the world around you.
I hope our journeys will intersect soon! Until then, keep chasing…