SAQA MA/RI members gathered together on Saturday, August 8 for a fantastic meeting centered on identifying and defining an artist's voice. Sue Bleiweiss led a panel of three successful and prolific professionals from our region in discussing what defines an artist's voice and what their personal journeys have been. Those artists were Mary Ellen Latino, Valerie Maser-Flanagan and Wen Redmond. Each artist not only talked about their own philosophies but brought examples of their work to further define their vision. Sue video taped part of the lecture in an attempt to bring this exciting discussion to those who could not make the meeting. You will find this videotape on the SAQA website with other SAQA webinar recordings.
Mary Ellen, Valerie, Wen & Sue
To recap some of the gems that these women gave us I will start with a quote Wen read by Anais Nin, "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Development of voice takes a long time and it evolves with time. Wen was very philosophical about her thoughts on finding the artist's voice stating early that musing is the artist's voice and citing her early reading of the philosophical book Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person by MC Richards as a clarifying point for her journey. Wen likes to let the materials speak to her. She uses journals filled with pictures she loves and her own writing to inspire her creativity. She also believes that writing a heartfelt artist statement is a good way to focus on what is important to you as an artist in finding your voice.
Valerie believes that doing a lot of work as opposed to looking at an individual expression is how you begin to develop a voice. How your pieces link together as a whole speak to what your voice is. Valerie talked about how after taking a class with Nancy Crow she came home to focus on her own work. Her drive to work steadily and with a strong commitment to working daily have paid off for her in a gradual, but steady development of her style. She talked about the power and emotional impact of seeing all of her work together in her first solo exhibition as she realized that it indeed had a clear voice.
Mary Ellen believes that focusing on your own creative imagery is what initiates an artist's voice. To this task she adds that passion and authenticity are very important. She draws on a wealth of life experiences in travel and a love of photography as well as other artist tools as she works. Mary Ellen has spent a good deal of time academically learning about art but stated that at one point the challenging thing was to take what she had learned and to make it her own. Her art has also been a way for her to heal and suggests that art can be a way to work through life experiences thus making a very personal statement. Mary Ellen also quoted a book by Dakota Mitchell, Finding Your Visual Voice: A Painter's Guide to Developing an Artistic Style, which would be a wonderful read for any artist trying to discover their voice.
A wealth of solid advice, suggestive thinking and great ideas for reflection were passed to the group. Thanks to Mary Ellen, Valerie and Wen for sharing their visions, ideas and processes to help us all understand the concept of what it means to have an artist's voice.
Members looking at Wen's, Mary Ellen's and Valerie's work
After lunch and announcements we wrapped up our meeting as we always do, by taking a look at what our colleagues are doing in a show and tell. Below are some of the photos.
Three by Valarie Poitier
Alison Wilbur with a piece worked in Esterita Austin's class
Two from Vicki Jensen
Sue Bleiweiss (sorry I missed the right edge)
Sharyn Raiche with a portrait of her daughter
Dawn Allen with quilt business cards
Two from Nancy Belsky from New Hampshire
Ellen Fisher from New Hampshire
Our next meeting will be held at the Fuller Craft Museum, 455 Oak St. in Brockton, MA on Sunday, October 18 from 12-2pm. This meeting will coincide with the 2-5pm opening of the regional exhibition, Art As Quilt: Transitions in Contemporary Textile Media.