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September 18, 2017
September 1, 2017
Balance ambition with discipline and patience. Building a career as an artist takes time and you need a place to live and food to eat. Working for someone else doesn't mean you can't make art. It means you are going to need discipline to make art in your spare time, to apply for craft shows, more interesting jobs, residencies, and grants.
I began building my independent studio practice soon after graduation from MECA. I focused initially on one of a kind works but eventually, begrudgingly, I began working in multiples and developing a production line. While a student I had shunned this kind of work believing that it lacked soul or artistry, however once I started doing it I found unexpected fullfilment. Production speaks to my inspirations of utility, efficiency, and economy; I take pleasure in the challenge of creating beautiful designs within its restraints.
It took six years of partial self employment and cautious growth for me to become fully self employed as an artist. If I could give a piece of advice it would be this – balance ambition with discipline and patience. Building a career as an artist takes time and you need a place to live and food to eat. Working for someone else doesn’t mean you can’t make art. It means you are going to need discipline to make art in your spare time, to apply for craft shows, more interesting jobs, residencies, and grants. The discipline I developed while building my business has been instrumental in maintaining its success over time. If you work for yourself, it is on you to make sure the work gets done, and that you keep making incredible art.
MECA and Portland's community is ever inspiring to live within; it's a city filled with artists, small businesses, and programming that value supporting arts and the community. In the future, I look forward to continuing to inspire, enact creativity, visualized imagination, and thoughtfulness within new communities.
I’ve loved to make art as long as I came remember. Mostly drawing. I came to MECA after graduating high school, and growing up with fantastically creative friends who helped me to exercise my imagination through everything from large scale drawings of the comic book heroes we’d designed together to DIY 3 person skateboard mobiles made of large pieces of wood, skateboard trucks and wheels and foam padding. When it came time to think about the things I really cared about devoting my life to, I knew it was my affinity for drawing and my love of bringing things from my imagination to life that deserved my time spent on them.
My current body of work uses a few of my favorite current processes to create separate components of prints that can then be fit together to create a final piece, almost like a puzzle. The prints have two main components, which work like a problem and a solution. The problem, in this case, is often an empty stage (a large print, often a linocut or an etching that presents an empty space, whether it is a carving of a book with an empty page or a sprawling grassy landscape) that is waiting to be filled. The solution would then be what fills that empty stage (other, smaller prints that are carved in anticipation of enhancing and embedding a story or scene into the larger print by building up objects, textures, and characters). This process allows me to test my own imagination.
I can create a stage that is, say, a somewhat empty forest and then ask myself “What might be the craziest thing I could fill the rest of this forest with?” and choose to simply fill the empty space in the print with leaves or go so far as to print a troll in the forest surrounded by a bunch of baby ducks instead. I can choose imagery that works together to make points, or just pretty pictures. Because of the repeatable nature of printmaking, I can actually create prints of both possible outcomes from the same initial stage (different solutions to the same problem) and present them together to encourage people to think about the limits of their own imagination by seeing the variety of ways in which I apply mine.
I owe great thanks to the community of MECA and Portland, Maine itself for being where I am currently with my work as it is ever inspiring to live in a city filled with artists as well as small businesses and programs that value promoting the arts and community in general. This summer I had the fantastic opportunity to work as the summer intern at a print studio in town called The Publication Studio. There I worked with two other printmakers to teach artists who came in as part of a day program the shop offered how to do various printmaking processes such as mokuhanga style woodcuts, screenprinting, lithography, and monotype and use them to create products that could then be sold in the shop, with 75% of the profits going back to the artists and 25% back to the shop. We brainstormed events we could involve the community in and accomplish using printmaking techniques, such as large collaborative screen printing demonstrations and even a DIY carnival (in partnership with Bomb Diggity Arts) with all handmade prizes and games. In the future, I look forward to continuing to inspire and enact creativity and visualized imagination and thoughtfulness within whichever community I am a part of.
I now have a great respect for the processes of making. There are some incredibly intelligent, amazing faculty at MECA — they are genuinely excited about your growth and constantly push you to be a better maker.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on.
My most recent body of work involves a series of lightly abstracted tools that can be handled but are functionally unusable. These objects juxtapose visual worth and use value, hybridizing stereotypically “masculine” actions and “feminine” aesthetics. They act as totems that merely imitate utility and provide the wielder with an illusion of agency or power. The relationship formed between the body and these powerless objects provides the viewer/wielder with an opportunity to consider a range of give and take relationships and contemplate the power struggles within them. These objects are mostly made with brass, wood, or leather, mimicking the construction of tools. They take the somewhat idealized form of a woodsman’s arsenal, consisting of a shovel and hammer combination, a spear, a bugle, and a modified elk antler.
What’s your background?
I have been making since I was very young. At any given moment I could be found sketching in a notebook or building odd little contraptions. I came to MECA with the intention of majoring in Illustration, but after taking a few Metalsmithing classes as a Freshman I had a change of heart. Working with metal feels much more natural to me. I am obsessed with how rewarding it is to hold a finished object that can be turned over and interacted with in my hand.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist?
MECA has been an incredible resource in the time I have been here and really helped me grow as a maker. I am now more methodical in my making and take the time to plan things out to be as efficient as possible, which I was not doing before MECA. I could never get past the mental block of expending effort on the planning of a project, especially when the outcome was all I cared about. I now have a great respect for the processes of making. There are some incredibly intelligent, amazing faculty at MECA — they are genuinely excited about your growth and constantly push you to be a better maker. MECA was the only college I wanted to go to, and I probably would not be working with metalsmithing without MECA’s education.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
After I graduate, I will start working as a bench jeweler for another maker, while I put together my studio and make my own jewelry and tools on the side. I would love to one day be self-sufficient enough to make and sell my own work. With the facilities MECA has provided, I am confident I will be able to succeed. As long as I am always making, even as just a hobby, I will be happy.
I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. My work currently focuses on storytelling through referencing the past. Most of my characters are inspired from old found photographs of people during the early 1900’s. I love their clothing, haircuts, and expressions as they were captured during a time far before me. Some of these candid moments show childhood friends playing together, laughing, fooling around. Some of the images are much more tragic; they come from tombstones in a very special cemetery behind a church looking over Florence, Italy. Whether in moments of happiness or sorrow, behind each face was a person who lived a lifetime. I like to imagine the memories that their lives consisted of.
When I find photographs of people in the times before, during, and after the onset of industrialization around the world, I’m intrigued with what gave genuine happiness to their lives. I like to reflect upon moments when I have been the most happy. Technology certainly contributes to a lot of amazing conveniences and tools that aid my life, but can they compete with the moments when I’m undistracted, and rather utterly in the present? This has led me to consider ways of “waking up” people to their own thoughts about existence.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has taught me that technical ability can only get you so far if your concepts can’t connect emotionally with others. The task has been to investigate ways of communicating with my intended audience to achieve a feeling of authenticity. To emote this honesty, it’s been important to question each component and characteristic in my pieces to give them the most lucid voice possible. I’ve felt really challenged to hold myself true to this honesty when I’ve wanted to make something purely beautiful. I’m coming to learn more and more that listening to what “wakes you up,” is what leads to making work that is authentic, not forced.
What inspires you? I’m inspired by other cultures and their traditions and customs. I never want to stop traveling or doing things out of my comfort zone. When you get lost or end up in a place you had never planned for, it sticks in your mind. You remember that feeling of excitement or terror, and hopefully you can end up laughing about it. But whenever you reflect back on these moments of waking up to the reality of life outside of the sheltered box we put ourselves in, the memories become so vivid.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? It hasn’t been so much as a single person giving me a piece of quotable advice, but rather a culmination. The collective advice has been to question everything, to not let yourself get caught in a current with no power to steer. Don’t silence that child in you that sees every new moment or place with curiosity and excitement.
I look at my art through the eyes of a painter, a designer, and an art historian, not just of an illustrator.
Describe a body of work that you are currently working on. A recent focus of mine is working on background and setting design. I find it easy for me to design figures, so I am challenging myself with making the focus on where the figure is and how they are interacting with the background. I am striving for my backgrounds to tell a story of their own. Right now I’m working on a painting of a flower shop filled with various plants, old floorboards and walls. The painting is being created in gouache, which is currently my absolute favorite medium.
What’s your background? Besides my aunt, I am the only artist in my family; my parents would always tell me that they were never sure where my love for art came from! I spent a lot of time in hospitals and doctor’s offices as a child, which meant lots of sitting and waiting. Drawing was a great way to pass the time as I distracted myself with my imagination. I think by storytelling in my mind, and putting it on paper, made me really fall in love with illustration. It has a lot of influence on how I am as an adult and in choosing my major.
How has your education at MECA shaped you as an artist? MECA has pushed me to think about my art in many different ways. I look at my art through the eyes of a painter, a designer, and an art historian, not just of an illustrator. My professors encouraged me to take risks and explore options, whether it was through compositions, medium, or style. When I started my freshman year at MECA, I tried to paint as realistically as possible. After quite a bit of trial and error, I finally stumbled upon the style that I am cultivating now. Even through more confidence in a personalized style, I see it still changing and developing.
What inspires you? I am extremely drawn to anything that has a quaint charm. From growing up in a small town, I am attracted to places like farmer’s markets, small coffee shops, and flower shops. At these places, I love people-watching: listening in on conversations or imagining people’s stories. It gives me inspiration to come up with ideas for drawings when I am drawing a blank.
What do you hope to do after graduation? Currently, I am keeping an open mind about what is to come post-graduation. I see myself moving anywhere, really. I have even looked into signing up for the Peace Corps for a few years to get more worldly experience.
The end goal is to make children’s books. As long as I can eventually do that, I will be happy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? One of my peers received this advice, but it changed my art completely. He was asked why the default for character design is blonde hair, blue eyes, and white skin. Where is the diversity? This conversation made me realize that this character standard was exactly what I was doing within my own my art. Since then, one of the focuses in my illustrations is that there is more representation. It really changed the way I think about what I am creating and putting out there.
What else are you interested in? Currently, I am working on collecting and caring for plants, succulents, and cacti. To me, they have a lot of charm, and they are almost impossible to kill — very helpful to me. I am also currently into thrift shopping and traveling. I recently got back from studying in France for a semester; I caught the travel bug because of it. Overall, my hobbies are always changing.
Being able to engage with such a supportive community has led me to exhibition opportunities, grants, and residencies I wouldn’t have found otherwise.
Inspired by the historic tradition of allegorical painting, my work depicts figures in ambiguous situations as a way of exploring the strange, nebulous rules of human behavior. I intend my paintings to be both quiet and disquieting, using obscurity, tension, and dark humor to investigate social constructs.
For the past year and a half, I’ve been working on a series of paintings called Perfect Order. In this work, anonymous human figures take on the roles and behaviors of animals that live in matriarchal societies. This series playfully demonstrates dominance hierarchies that subvert stereotypes of masculinity, legitimize female authority, and challenge the binary definition of gender. I’ve always been interested in using my work to create a dialogue about the instability of power relationships between people, and this project has given me to freedom to embrace that concept more fully and explore it specifically within a feminist framework.
Anne Buckwalter resides in Philadelphia, PA as a Artist and Conservation Technician. View her website here.
What resources, tools, or organizations have you found helpful throughout your artistic career?
The greatest resource I’ve had in my career is the privilege and pleasure of knowing some very dedicated and disciplined artists, arts workers, arts educators, and curators. I’ve worked at arts nonprofits since finishing my graduate degree at MECA – the Portland Museum of Art and SPACE Gallery in Portland, Maine, and I’m now at the Conservation Center in Philadelphia – and have found that, not surprisingly, having a day-job in this field comes with the benefit of direct and meaningful connections to those who are interested in art and artists. Being able to engage with such a supportive community has led me to exhibition opportunities, grants, and residencies I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I feel very lucky.
Advice for New Alumni
Treat your studio practice like a job, even if it doesn’t make you money. Figure out how many hours you will spend in your studio per day or per week and then accept nothing less. Show up. Stay focused. Keep track of your time. Don’t make excuses.
Take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student.
My path to becoming a freelance illustrator began when I made the decision to transfer from a liberal arts school in Massachusetts to an art school next to my hometown. I knew that I wanted to be self-employed but had no idea what that would look like until I learned about freelance work and the world of illustration.
A specific direction for my work became clear after completing my first project post-graduation, Plant These to Help Save Bees. I had drawn inspiration from nature for many years, but didn’t realize how passionate I’d become about bringing awareness to environmental issues through illustration — something I’ve continued to strive for since.
Now I’m able to work in a home studio freelancing and running my online shop — a job description I had previously never heard of but love so much. Over the last ten years, I’ve also worked at my family’s painting business which continues to be a gratifying and important aspect in balancing my illustration work and financial stability as an artist.
Hannah Rosengren Moran Illustration ’13 resides in South Portland, Maine. View her website here.
0–2 Years Post Graduation
After graduating from MECA in 2013, I worked part-time at the Portland Museum of Art as a Visitor Experience Associate. In my free time, I started my first project post-graduation called Plant These to Help Save Bees. In early 2014, the poster went viral and was published in American Bee Journal, ELLE Decoration Sweden, and Jamie Magazine – Dutch Edition. Its popularity led to my working with Greenpeace on a poster about the Tongass Forest that year, and attracted other clients and online shop customers interested in the burgeoning environmental themes in my work.
3–5 Years Post Graduation
Throughout the next couple of years, I continued to build my shop inventory by making prints and products of personal projects between freelance jobs. In 2015, the newly-opened Press Hotel commissioned a coloring book all about their hotel and Portland in the summertime. In 2016, I was awarded a Rebel Blend Fund Grant from Coffee By Design to illustrate and distribute a zine called How to Cultivate a Pollinator-Friendly Yard, about seasonal ways to help pollinators in Maine. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Greenpeace again on another poster for their campaign to protect the Boreal Forest in Canada.
Advice for New Alumni
My advice for new alumni would be to take a break to recuperate from the craziness of your final semester, but to maintain the work ethic you cultivated as an art school student. It’s rare that I have as crazy a workload as I did while at MECA, but when I do, the ability to stay motivated and organized while working on multiple projects with coinciding deadlines has been essential.
Christy Georg, a Visiting Assistant Professor in MECA’s Sculpture Program, is driven by her imaginative curiosity, which is reflected in both her life and in her art. She has worked as a deckhand aboard sailing schooners, thru-hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail and the 500-mile Colorado Trail, and cruised the Arctic. Endurance, achievement, and a Sisyphean attempt to capture the present moment remain underlying themes in her endeavors.
“My primary challenge is to teach students the importance of investigation—to become disciplined and independent critical thinkers with the confidence to express themselves in a meaningful manner and with the skillsets to achieve it,” she says.
Recently, she has been focusing on realizing her long-term project Great Guns, an unusual, immersive installation, begun during her residency at Kohler Arts, which called it “one of the most ambitious projects attempted in our 43-year history.” The goal is to construct a large ship-like installation featuring two huge, ghostly white naval cannons, using mirrors to reflect them in an infinite gun-deck that will viscerally illustrate the scene of dexterity between men and machine in close quarters.
Her next step is to build the large architectural space needed to hold the 54 created parts together. Christy has looked to the USS Constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, named by President George Washington, as an inspiration in recreating the structure of a fighting ship. “The USS Constitution was the most famous of the first Six Frigates in America’s Navy, which revolutionized naval warfare by creating a new ‘class’ of fighting ship, which proved successful in maintaining this new country’s independence,” she says. “Imagine entering an environment — the gundeck of a war ship at the apex of the ‘Age of Sail.’ It has low ceilings and structural beams you must duck under, cannon line both sides, dominating the small space. Naval cannons, known as ‘great guns,’ are huge, 10-foot long, violently bucking, scalding-hot war machines, operated under a team of choreographed men, with the threat of fire, guns breaking loose or falling over, and of being shot or hit with giant splinters from explosions.”
Part of Georg’s artistic philosophy is to face logistical challenges head-on and in stride, knowing perseverance and endurance will help her to achieve her ambitious goals. “Danger (existentially of death, as well as physical pain) implicit in experiencing the scene is palpable — a powerful, full-body realization. In my rendering, I acknowledge its past-tense delicately and with reverence — all in ghostly white, with the stillness and silence of vacancy. The viewer is beheld in a ghostly white gun deck battery of infinite length, disappearing into both horizons, a curious and powerful experience!”
Banner Credit: Photo Courtesy: John Michael Kohler Art Center, 2016
Christy Georg earned her BFA at Kansas City Art Institute and her MFA at Massachusetts College of Art. She has participated in numerous residencies, including The MacDowell Colony, the Roswell Artist-in-Residency Program, the Fine Arts Work Center, Kohler Arts Center’s Arts/Industry Program and The Arctic Circle artist and scientist residency program. She has received recognition for her sculptural work from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the University of Rhode Island, the Mellon Foundation, and the Leighton International Artists Exchange Program.
Her solo exhibitions include the Contemporary Artists Center in North Adams, the Roswell Museum, Gettysburg College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, the Trustman Gallery at Simmons College in Boston, and the Khyber Institute of Contemporary Art in Halifax. Recently, her retrospective exhibit “20 Years” was hosted by the Gardiner Gallery at Oklahoma State University and most recently her retrospective “20 Years” at the Gardiner Gallery at Oklahoma State University and in the “Alcoves” series at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.