One of my favorite memories is of my father-in-law, Lou Pomponio, asking guests how they met and married. It was his way of getting to know them and starting a conversation. But it was also a subtle entrance into two lives opened up, flowering, and spread out for new acquaintances to enter.
I like that analogy. I love to ask my artist friends “when did you know you were an artist? How old were you? What were you doing that affirmed your vocation?”
I remember a dollhouse. It was made of wood, plywood, I think. It consisted of three rooms on the first floor. On the left a bedroom. In the middle, I think a living room with a door (that opened) onto a porch, and then a door on the right into the kitchen. It felt small to me. I opened the back of the roof and made three more rooms. I made candlesticks out of birthday cake candles. A fireplace from cardboard, a table from an empty spool of thread, a sofa from clay. Day after day, home from school, it was all I wanted to do. All I wanted to live. Some days, my little brother and I carried my dollhouse onto the front lawn where it lived in the neighborhood along with Mrs. Anderson’s and those Germans who lived (suspiciously) across the street.
Then came paper maché puppets – always too soon completed where they turned smelly and green, soon tossed.
Over time beading, knitting, painting and then, printmaking.
Are we artists destined to one practice? Or, are some of us pulled magnetically toward what is new and what is not understood? I have many artist friends who seem to know exactly what kind of art they need to make. They have a certain gift for creating art that speaks to them, but that also speaks out of them. You can recognize them by their artwork. You know that that wood cut is Max’s or it’s Peggy’s. You know that little monochrome monotype is Ellen’s or Lee’s.
My work is not pegged. It’s not ‘knowable.’ You cannot tell from day one or day two what it is I am going to offer or present. I worry about that. You can tell a Rauschenberg. You can tell a Joseph Albers. You can tell a Mary Cassatt. You can tell a Lee Newman, Max Winkler, Peggy Parker, but …… you cannot tell me. You do not know what my ‘style’ is. I have no touchstone. No identifying marker.
But, I am an artist.
It is what identifies me from my core. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. But, in my very core, I am an artist. I need to make things. I need to make art. I am art.
Let me ask – are you an artist? When did you know?
Where are you now? What are you making?
And where would you like your art to take you?