To Hear and Be Heard – Phillip Hua

To Hear and Be Heard

Phillip Hua

Phillip Hua
We Are San Francisco, 2015
Collaged digital monotype
11″x14″ (Each portrait in grid)
Courtesy of the Artist

We Are San Francisco

Phillip Hua envisions a community where differences don’t define what is possible between us. In this shared life in the city, citizens meet and are present with one another. Hua explains, “In this series, I created bisected portraits of the people of San Francisco, merged with another. Plumbers with bankers, techies with tattoo artists. From the Presidio to the Portola, and the Marina to the Bayview, these portraits were a way to connect, literally and figuratively, the rich cultural diversity of the city. Everyone from the freaks to the geeks, to the hipsters to the homeless. The open arms of the city embrace all who reach for it. This series serves to bring people together into the same ‘space’ as a way to urge unity through turbulent times.”

To Hear and Be Heard – Squeak Carnwath

To Hear and Be Heard

Squeak Carnwath

Squeak Carnwath
Then We Must2020
Oil alkyd on canvas over panel
77” X 77”
Courtesy of the artist
Photo Credit: M. Lee Fatherree

Then We Must

The title of Squeak Carnwath’s painting THEN WE MUST demands our action IF WE KNOW, which is emblazoned in large letters across the canvas. These words are a fragment from James Baldwin’s An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis. Baldwin writes, “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own”. 

Behind the large letters are banner-like swaths of color, along with telling images of a sinking ship, the planet earth, a cell phone, a clock alerting us NOW is the TIME, symbols and drawings rendered in paint, and much more. We are bombarded with words – layers of text, from the news, quotes, protest chants, demands, and journal-like thoughts, which fill the space with the same energy and urgency as the passionate speeches and marches which engendered them. Carnwath paints with the language of our times so that we may hear, compelling us to respond to our world with empathy, duty and determination. 

To Hear and Be Heard

To Hear and Be Heard

Graphic Design by Sandra Jamaleddine

Opening October 16th and on view through January 22, 2021, Santa Clara University’s Department of Art and Art History is pleased to present To Hear and Be Heard, a virtual group art exhibition that considers civility.  https://www.scu.edu/art/gallery-exhibitions/gallery-exhibition-schedule/2020-2021/to-hear-and-be-heard/

2020 has been an unprecedented year. Along with a worldwide pandemic there is continued injustice, polarization and antagonism within communities around the globe, such that despite our technological interconnectedness through email, twitter, social and mass media, we often seem unable to truly listen, relate, empathize and solve problems together as human beings.

In response to this discord and division there are appeals for civility. What is civility? The word civility comes from the Latin word civilitas, from civilis meaning relating to citizens. In its early use the term denoted the state of being a citizen and consequently meant good citizenship. An association with politeness arose in the mid-sixteenth century as the meaning of the term broadened and books on comportment flourished. Today, ideas and discourse about the modern meaning and relevance of civility are controversial and unsettled. Much more than etiquette, civility ideally encompasses empathetic and respectful behavior amongst diverse groups; an essential aspect of civility is to listen – to hear, and likewise, to be heard.

In this momentous year, we truly need to hear and be heard. From voting in our upcoming elections to tackling the complex problems of social injustice, the pandemic and the environment, this is a time to re-think and redefine what it means to be civil, to be a citizen, to listen and be heard with our voices, actions and the visual expression and problem solving that art uniquely provides.

Through the art of seventeen artists working in diverse media including ceramics, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, installation, textiles and collage, To Hear and Be Heard considers civility, our life in community, what divides us and what unites us. With visual language, the work in the exhibition invites questions, prompts action, builds connections, and encourages understanding of others and ourselves. Exhibiting artists include: Alice Beasley, Sandow Birk, Sheila Pree Bright, Marie Cameron, Squeak Carnwath, Enrique Chagoya, Brian Dettmer, Julie Heffernan, Phillip Hua, Sherry Karver, Lisa Kokin, Roberto Lugo, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Priscilla Otani, Maria Porges and Chelsea Ryoko Wong.

Marianne McGrath, Curator

Special thanks to Mitch Grieb, Sandy Boyer, Pancho Jiménez, Sandra Jamaleddine, Brian Beams and Santa Clara University’s Department of Art and Art History for their support and for hosting this exhibition.

Heat

HEAT

Florine Stettheimer“Heat”, 1919
Oil on Canvas
50” x 36”
Brooklyn Museum

Florine Stettheimer’s Heat is an apt vision of what we are feeling here in Northern California. It is dry, hot and the air is filled with smoke; our sky is not the usual clear blue. A heat wave has again sparked wildfires across our beautiful state. 

I can imagine myself at an outdoor “distanced” birthday gathering in Stettheimer’s painting. Though the elegant figures have comfortable seats six feet apart and a lovely table set with what seems to be a birthday cake, this palette of orange, yellow and murky green, along with the limp tree branches and wilting human limbs, convey the stifling heat and oppressive inertia of a very hot day. 

31 Women: March 1-31, 2020

31 Women: March 1 – 31, 2020

31 Women catalog cover and logo designed by Rozanne Hermelyn Di Silvestro, Arc and Line Communication and Design; catalogue production by Karen Gutfreund, catalogue authored and curated by Marianne McGrath, and for sale on the Whitney Modern Gallery website.

It has been quite a month and then some! I hope that everyone is healthy and safe during this time of uncertainty with the pandemic.

31 Women opened on March 1st and was well received by the community. The reception at Whitney Modern, Los Gatos on March 8th was a huge success and we had festive attendance all day long. It was a wonderful “last hurrah” before we had to retreat into social distancing. The planned virtual exhibit was a fortunate coincidence for 31 Women – it has kept the exhibit alive and brought art to people everywhere isolated at home. 

31 Women has been extended until April 30th at Whitney Modern, Los Gatos and a few works are still available. This will give people more time to see the exhibit online and keep our momentum going in showcasing the artists. Women’s History Month may have come to a close, but it is still a powerful year for women as it is also the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States – and this is an election year! PLUS now more than ever we NEED the power of art to inspire and uplift us during this difficult time.

Highlighted individually throughout the exhibition are each artist’s process and inspiration, as well as her sense of connection to women in history and art history, distilled from dozens of interviews, correspondence and conversations that began last year. Along with the physical exhibition at Whitney Modern, the artists from 31 Women were featured daily on social media, blogs, websites and in the gallery — one woman a day throughout the month of March. With extending the show, posts continued periodically in April with new features and sources of inspiration. This aspect of the show is intended to be a virtual exhibition available to those outside the area, and beyond the timeframe of the exhibit, to provide an individual focus on a particular artist, emphasizing her unique practice and contributions to the art community.

31 Women affirms that knowing one another empowers us. Connections past and present celebrate, support and strengthen the collective creativity of all women. Sharing our stories of women that influence us honors our past, while showcasing the work of women today crystallizes our appreciation of the present. Through such shared perspectives, we can inspire future generations of women. 

I want to again express my deep appreciation to the artists for their participation and enthusiastic support. My gratitude goes to Karen Gutfreund for publishing the catalog, for her support on this project and her encouragement as a fellow independent curator. Thank you to Rozanne Hermelyn Di Silvestro for the catalogue and logo design. And finally, a special thank you to Suzanne Smedt, owner of Whitney Modern, Los Gatos for welcoming 31 Women to her gallery and for being a champion of artists, curators and our art community.

I will be looking forward to celebrating Women’s History Month 2021 by curating a new exhibit dedicated to women artists. Until then I have several projects in the works. Check back soon for new artist interviews and projects, plus details about my next exhibit: To Hear and Be Heard, which opens October 16th, 2020!

31 Women – March 31st: Kelsey Irvin

31 Women – March 31st: Kelsey Irvin

Kelsey Irvin
Storyline Silk I-V”, 2020                    
Vintage ephemera, gold leaf, oil, acrylic and resin on panel 

Appearing like paintings at first view, Kelsey Irvin’s contemporary collages are a treasure trove of materials upon further investigation. In her process she uses everything and anything: vintage ephemera, fabric from the 1800s, McCall’s dress patterns, Hollywood movie magazines from the 50s, New York Times fashion ads from the 20s, matchbox covers, oil, acrylic, graphite, and sometimes resin. The ensuing works conjure memory and nostalgia. There is crossover between past, present, and future, with unifying themes of independence, adventure, the strength of women, and the innocent imagination of childhood.
Irvin is inspired and challenged by the idea of creating something unique that draws people in, brings people back in time, or propels them forward. She finds these qualities in many artists past and present. A woman artist that exemplifies this for Irvin is Helen Frankenthaler, admired for her uninhibited boldness. She thinks of Frankenthaler’s masterpiece “Mountains and Sea” because of what it represents, both to Irvin and for female artists, she says: “Frankenthaler was inspired, set a new path, stood out among men, and the work is breathtaking.”
Likewise, Kelsey Irvin finds role models in everyday life. “People that are unwavering in their particular passion, highly capable by choice, ‘doers’ because they can’t imagine letting life go by without trying. People who are kind, thoughtful and selfless, but also driven with self-discipline. Women who aren’t afraid to pursue their dream career and motherhood at the same time.” Irvin explains that these aren’t always famous individuals, these are people like her mother and grandmother, and people she meets along the way through life.      

An Interview with Kelsey Irvin

Kelsey Irvin

MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up? Were you always creative?

KI: I grew up in Western New York outside of Buffalo.  I was constantly drawing as a child. I submitted cartoons magazines as a child thinking I could be a freelance illustrator in elementary school and middle school – I received very nice rejection letters. Beyond that, I never really thought about art as a career, I just knew I would always love and create art. 

MKM: Why did you pursue art?

KI: In college I fell in love with painting to a level I had not expected. I was a bit over-extended those years and had committed to the equivalent of 3 majors, held 2 jobs (one as a TA for 2 professors, and one as a rock climbing guide for the University’s Outdoor program), all while playing college Lacrosse.  Long story short, by my senior year I was so over-extended that I had to cut something out in order to make sure I didn’t lose time in the studio – the place I wanted to be the most. I thought long and hard. Growing up, I’d always loved the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I believe it was because I actually only heard the first part… “Jack of all trades…” which was something that appealed to me. I loved learning about and trying many different things. My senior year in college, after I had so thoroughly explored the idea of “Jack of All Trades”, something hit me like a load of bricks – it literally felt like it knocked me over…… “Master of None.” I finally heard that part. “Master of None.” I really heard it. It haunted me. You can do everything and become pretty good at a lot of exciting things, but you’ll never really explore one thing to the full capacity, that one thing you truly love, if you’re too busy pursuing other interests. Everything changed for me in that moment. I knew that I wanted to pursue and explore painting more than anything else. I didn’t think it could soon become my full-time job, all I knew was that I wanted to paint and be in the studio as much as I possibly could. I loved it that much. So, I started sacrificing other things for the first time in my life; and it was worth it.

MKM: Where did you study?

KI: St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York. A wonderful school that offered me great experiences and opportunities. 

MKM: Did you have any memorable teachers at St. Lawrence University?

KI: Any teacher that encourages your natural abilities is a memorable teacher. In college I had several wonderful professors. Two that stood out most were Tom Greene and Melissa Schulenberg. Tom is an Environmental Psychologist that I worked for and Melissa was my printmaking instructor and an artist herself. They were both so encouraging to me in finding my way, pushing me to pursue my unique interests and helping make a path out of those interests during my college career. 

MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? rituals, patterns?

KI: My routines and work patterns have changed a lot over the years. Before kids I could easily work thirteen-hour days and paint until my eyes went blurry. I didn’t have a lot of structure, it was just – go to work. I loved it. Over time more and more structure has slipped into my work routine. A year ago we had our 3rd child. Shortly after she was born I accepted representation into my 7th gallery and wasn’t really sure how I was going to pull it all off. I started setting a specific goal for each week of what I needed to get done in the studio. I try to set realistic goals – but also goals that push me a bit. If I’m working on an exhibition this is how I ensure I have enough time to complete what I need to. 

MKM: Do you focus on a specific medium or combination of mediums? Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

KI: I use everything and anything. I consider myself a contemporary collage artist because collage, specifically vintage ephemera collage, has become such a huge component in what I do over that last 10 years. My work often includes vintage ephemera dating back to the early 1900s, even 1800s, fabric, leather, oil, acrylic, graphite, and sometimes resin. I use collage and assemblage that triggers memories in viewers: Vintage erector set parts, McCall’s dress patterns, Hollywood movie magazines from the 50s, New York Times fashion ads from the 20s, matchbox covers, hand-painted vintage signage; the list goes on and on. The work is meant to be a painting from afar, and a treasure hunt of materials upon further investigation. 

MKM: What themes do you pursue?

KI: Memories, nostalgia; the crossover between past, present, and future. My figures have themes of independence, freedom, adventure, strength of women, as well as the unique and innocent imagination and adventurous spirit from childhood.

MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

KI: My fabric shears. Collage artists “geek out” over really sharp scissors. I could paint with my fingers if I had to, but I can’t cut with them, or draw with them for that matter. After scissors, I would say a 4H graphite pencil.

MKM: Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

KI: Cornerstone pieces. The pieces that changed my direction because they opened up a new door in my creative world. Magnetique I & II were the first figurative pieces that I did that were entirely collage. A New Daysymbolizes a lot for me and my career. And also, a newer set of panels, Jewels of Narration represents a newer direction in the evolution of my Storyline Panels, a series which I’ve been doing for over ten years.

MKM: What has been a seminal experience?

KI: When I mentioned that in my senior year of college I was overextended, and my studio time was at risk — I ended up making the very difficult decision to leave the college Lacrosse team in my senior year in order to spend more time in the studio. You get very close to team members of a college sports team and I left something very social and exciting to do something rather solitary, but the decision itself was pivotal for me. Without knowing it, I had started down a path of making sacrifices for studio time; Choosing art over many other things. It helped lay the foundation in a career well before I actually knew I would have a career as an artist. 

MKM: What art do you identify with the most?

KI: It’s a wide range. I’m tempted to say collage or mixed media, but that really doesn’t cover it. I think that I identify most with art that is layered in meaning. Art that makes my heart race could be anything. Art that you can’t help but walk up to, get really close to it, and immerse yourself in how the artist created it. I’d like my paintings to be one thing from afar, and another up close. 

MKM: What inspires you? Other artists, women from history, your process, a theme?

KI: The idea of creating something from life, in a way that is different from what anyone has seen before, that draws people in and then brings people back, or propels them forward is inspiring.  Wayne Thiebaud’s landscapes, Andrew Wyeth’s fine detail, Andy Goldsworthy’s leaf and stone formations, Helen Frankenthaler’s uninhibited boldness… There are so many artists from the past and present that are awe inspiring. Making something new and different is more challenging for artists every year, every decade — but that’s what makes it in and of itself an inspiring task, it’s the challenge — and the reality that it’s possible. 

MKM: Do you have a sense of connection to a particular woman artist from art history? Is there a specific work from this artist that you find interesting?

KI: I would have to say Helen Frankenthaler’s Mountains and Sea because of what it represents, both for her, for female artists. She was inspired, set a new path, stood out among men, and the work is breathtaking. 

MKM: Who are your female role models from history or present day? 

KI: A role model to me is someone who is unwavering in their particular passion; highly capable by choice — a doer because they can’t imagine letting life go by without trying. Someone who is genuinely kind and thoughtful and selfless, but also driven with self-discipline. Someone who isn’t afraid to pursue their dream career and motherhood at the same time. These aren’t always famous individuals, these are people I meet along the way through life that I just want to keep talking to. These are people like my grandmother and my mother. 

MKM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

KI: Trust your first instinct. A painting instructor told me that while pointing out my initial painterly gesture in a large abstract piece. He said, “Build the entire piece around that.” He was right. In painting and in life. My first instinct is usually the best choice, and when I choose to ignore it, I usually regret it. 

MKM: What is your dream project? What can we expect from you in the next year?

KI: My dream project in the future is to complete a very large-scale collage/assemblage figurative work that includes dozens of individuals interacting through time; 30 feet or more. Either a mural or a work that can be exhibited and moved — several large works that come together. My plan for next year is to keep evolving my work by way of materials and technique and eventually take the panels into sculptural form. 

Inspiration and tools in Kelsey’s studio

Kelsey Irvin is represented by: Craighead Green Gallery, Dallas, TX; Exhibit by Aberson, Tulsa, OK; GF Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; Gardner Colby Gallery, Naples, FL; Jules Place Gallery, Boston, MA; Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA; Studio E Gallery, Palm Beach, FL; and Whitney Modern, Los Gatos, CA

31 Women – March 30th: Chris Hayman

31 Women – March 30th: Chris Hayman

Chris Hayman
Sea Point, 2018    
Oil on canvas

Chris Hayman

Trained as a classical pianist, Chris Hayman is greatly inspired and influenced by music in her life. Her early interests also included performing arts and she was actively involved in theater and dance at the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and Baltimore. These creative talents eventually led to her primary focus as a visual artist. 

In her paintings, Hayman concerns herself with space. She is interested in how forms are energized by the space around them, especially when incorporated into paintings with vivid contrasting color and thick painterly textures. Along with music, she is inspired by the natural world, and relies on a practice of constant study and exploration of the rural foothills and open lands near her home and studio. 

Hayman received her BA in Art History at the University of Maryland and a second degree in Art at the University of Reno, Nevada where she began her investigation into painting. She currently resides in Northern California on a farm with livestock, orchards, gardens and beautiful surroundings. 

Chris Hayman is represented by Whitney Modern Gallery, Los Gatos; Thomas Deans Fine Art, Atlanta; Desta Gallery, San Anselmo, CA; Judy Ferrara Gallery, Three Oaks, MI; Gallery North, Carmel, CA; Jules Place, Boston; Merritt Gallery & Renaissance Fine Arts, Baltimore and Chevy Chase, MD; Haverford, PA; Kelsey Michaels Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA; Morrison Gallery, Kent, CT; Julie Nester Gallery, Park City, UT; Octavia Art Gallery, Houston and New Orleans. 

31 Women – March 29th: Kim Frohsin

31 Women – March 29th: Kim Frohsin

Kim Frohsin
A Voile de Decembre, 2018             
Gouache, dry pigment, tempera, ink, pencils on paper
Courtesy of Andra Norris Gallery
 

Kim Frohsin

Kim Frohsin

An esteemed and prolific artist, Kim Frohsin works in painting, drawing, printmaking, and mixed media. Her subjects include the female figure, landscapes and cityscapes, as well as objects, themes and series that attract her attention, and which are most often autobiographical in nature.

Frohsin began exhibiting in the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990s, and in 1993 was included with Nathan Olivera, Manuel Neri and Stephen De Staebler in the exhibit Four Figures from the Bay, establishing her among notable Bay Area Figurative artists. With Wayne Thiebaud as the juror, Frohsin won the California Society of Printmakers’ Award in 1996, and the following year exhibited at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in Bay Area Art: The Morgan Flagg Collection.

After earning BA degrees in Humanities and French, Frohsin received her BFA from The Academy of Art College in San Francisco. For more than thirty years she has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. Her work can be found in both private and public collections including: The Coca-Cola Corporation, Heritage Communications, Atlanta, GA; The Gap Inc., San Francisco, CA; The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; and The San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA.

Kim Frohsin is represented by Andra Norris Gallery, Burlingame; b. sakata garo, Sacramento; Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco and Thomas Reynolds Gallery, San Francisco.

https://www.kimfrohsin.com

31 Women – March 28th: Shannon Amidon

31 Women – March 28th: Shannon Amidon

Shannon Amidon                             
A Curious Place, 2019                  
Encaustic 

Shannon Amidon always knew she loved creating and making things. In college she discovered photography and fell in love with the medium and the dark room. Having no formal training or skills in drawing or painting, photography was a natural and exciting way for her to express herself. She took photography courses, including an alternative process photography class with Brian Taylor at San José State University, which became a profound influence. Over the years Amidon’s practice changed and evolved significantly, but she says her “first love and roots will always be in photography.”
Broadly Amidon’s artwork explores themes of nature, science and our environmental impact. The cycles of life, death and impermanence play a primary role in her work. Amidon feels that art should be an investigation similar to science, by asking questions, researching and seeking to see things in new or different ways. Curiosity is fundamental in her practice. As the cycles of life, curiosity, discovery and science inspire Amidon, so does the act of making art. Among women artists, she is drawn to the work of Eva Hesse, admiring her dedication to material and process. She is also encouraged by the work of Neri Oxman and Zaria Forman and sees them “really pushing the boundaries and shining a creative light on climate change and the environment.”
Several significant life experiences, both personal and professional, have impacted Amidon’s work. The dualities of life and death, as well as becoming a mother as she lost her own, significantly changed her practice, color palette and the meaning of her work. Amidon explains that her “art went through a complete sea change. Most surprising is that it didn’t make it darker or melancholy, in fact observing and experiencing these cycles of life firsthand gave my work more hope, lightness and depth.”

An Interview with Shannon Amidon

MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up? Were you always creative? 

SA: My childhood was spent immersed in nature on an 1800’s nonfunctioning dairy farm. We were a family of 6 sharing a two bedroom, one bathroom house with no heating. At times I had a very difficult childhood. I grew up in a very poor family with parents who were both drug addicts. They were both very creative and in their own ways tried to give us what they could. Despite the challenging living situation, at times it was a magical place to grow up. I often spent my days escaping into nature, climbing trees, sliding down the foothills on cardboard, playing in the creek catching tadpoles and frogs. I would dig up rocks, pick wildflowers and shake the cherry blossoms from the plum trees to make it snow. We had all kinds of creatures who would visit, deer, skunk, possum, snakes, and more. This experience seeded a deep connection with nature and an insatiable curiosity to learn what I can about natural history. I was always creative, and my parents were very supportive of me expressing myself in many different outlets. We never went to galleries or museums growing up and I didn’t really have an idea of what fine art was. But, I always knew I loved creating and making things. My Mom always liked to tell a story about a time when I was a kid and took all of the silverware from the house and hung it from the tree in the backyard. I was always creating these little art installations having no idea of what that even was. 

Shannon Amidon in her studio

MKM: Why did you pursue art? 

SA: In some ways I feel like I was a late bloomer in art. I was not one of those kids who always knew they wanted to be an artist. I loved to create and express myself, but I didn’t always know how. I never even took any art classes in high school. It wasn’t until I graduated and started going to college that I discovered photography. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) had a really nice camera and let me use it and encouraged me to take a photography class. I fell in love with the medium and dark room. Having no formal training or skills in drawing or painting, photography was a natural and exciting way for me to express myself. I took all of the courses I could and eventually moved into alternative processes. For me they were a way to take what can sometimes be a cold medium and inject the artist’s hand. I always felt more like an artist than a photographer. I would paint on emulsions, print on fabric, wood and other substrates and experiment with cameraless techniques. From there I couldn’t stop, I found my purpose and there was no going back. I have tried many mediums over the years and my practice has changed and evolved significantly; however, my first love and roots will always be in photography. 

MKM: Where did you study? 

SA: West Valley College and San Jose State University. Although I am mostly self-taught in fine art. 

MKM: Did you have any memorable art teachers? 

SA: I took an alternative process photography class with Brian Taylor (SJSU) that really influenced me. He was such a generous and encouraging teacher and an incredible artist. His artwork opened a whole new world for me. A more mixed media approach to photography. 

MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? Rituals, patterns? 

SA: I’m a morning creator. After my coffee I go into my studio where I turn on all of my lights, my music and put my apron on. Then I turn my wax on because it takes a while for it to melt and be ready to work with. Encaustic is a very physical medium, so I always try to do some stretching to warm up before I start. I usually work on the actual art making & painting for about 4-5 hours at a time. I am a very process oriented artist and my paintings take a lot of prep before I can actually start painting. There is a lot of research that goes into my artwork and then surface prepping, medium making, and image processing.  

MKM: How has your practice changed over time?

SA: My practice significantly changed when I had a child. I became more focused and had to learn how to prioritize and be a lot more efficient with my time. Even though my creative time was drastically cut, my creativity, dedication and output actually went up. 

MKM: Do you focus on a specific medium or combination of mediums? Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet? 

SA: For the last 10 years I have been focused on encaustic. It is a medium that is so versatile and yet can still be challenging to work with. It’s never boring and continually pushes me and my technique. I enjoy using it in a mixed media way, incorporating paper, oil paint, pan pastels, mica, golf lead and more. But the encaustic paint is always the main material. I have always wanted to be a sculptor, ceramic or glass. I love the idea of creating 3d art and those mediums fascinate me. I follow a lot of sculptors on social media and buy all the glass making, sculpting and ceramics magazines and daydream about what I might create. 

MKM: What themes do you pursue?

SA: Broadly my artwork explores themes of nature, science and our environmental impact. The cycles of life, death and impermanence play a primary role in my work. I feel art should be an investigation similar to science. It is about asking questions, researching and seeking to see things in new or different ways. A major factor in my practice is curiosity. I am interested in all aspects of ecology and the natural world and while I can’t know or learn everything, art allows me to discover and study these areas of knowledge without specialization. As I progress along my artistic path, I become more and more aware of the importance of ecological issues. It is very important for me to have a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice by using all natural and repurposed materials. I also hope to inform and possibly educate people about environmental issues with my work. 

MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio? 

SA: I can’t live without music in my studio. I can often tie specific albums or song to my different series of artwork. Music is vital and often elevates my mood and motivates me. My most important tools are my hands, torch and loop scraper. 

Shannon at work

MKM: Is there an artwork you are most proud of? 

SA: That’s a difficult question. I think it always changes and is usually my most recent creations. Right now, I am really proud of a 300-piece monarch inspired installation I recently created. When I started it, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I loosely sketched it out but had no way to really do a test install to make sure it was going to work and look good. I had to do a lot of research and trial and error on how to create and install it. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that and spent about 8 months on it. I didn’t know what the layout was going to be until 2 days before it was to be installed. Everyone kept asking me how the pieces were going to be put together and I didn’t know until I knew. I just had to trust myself and the process. It turned out better than I could have imagined. 

MKM: What has been a seminal experience? 

SA: There are several significant life experiences that come to mind, both personal and professional. I was deeply impacted by a number of heartbreaking deaths and the awe-inspiring gift of life. From 2010 – 2017 I lost seven loved ones, including my parents and grandparents. During this time, I also became a new mother to an amazing daughter. This duality of life and death as well as becoming a mother as I lost my own, significantly changed my practice, color palette and the meaning of my work. My art went through a complete sea change. Most surprising is that it didn’t make it darker or melancholy, in fact observing and experiencing these cycles of life firsthand gave my work more hope, lightness and depth. Professionally there are countless high points along my path as an artist that have impacted and informed my practice. Attending my first artist residency in Costa Rica in 2010 was a huge turning point for me and my practice. It opened a new world by giving me the time and space to create without distractions, obligations or pressure. I was bitten with the residency bug and have attended many local and international residencies since then which have all positively contributed to my practice. Being selected to create three large public art pieces for San Francisco General Hospital creatively pushed me in ways I could not have imagined. It allowed me to learn new ways of working large scale and sculpturally that I had never done before. It opened a number of doors with corporate and private collectors and gave me the courage and confidence to apply and reach for opportunities and goals out of my comfort zone.

MKM: What art do you most identify with? 

SA: Assemblage and mixed media art. The first artwork that I really connected with was Joseph Cornell. 

MKM: What inspires you? Other artists, other women from history, your process, a theme? 

SA: Life inspires me. Curiosity and discovery, natural history, science. Also, just the act of art making itself inspires me. For me the art is the process of creating, not necessarily the finished piece.

MKM: Do you have a sense of connection to a particular woman artist from art history? Is there a specific work from this artist that you find interesting? 

SA: I am really drawn to the work of Eve Hesse and her dedication to material and process.

MKM: Who are your female role models from history or present day? 

SA: Right now, I am inspired by Neri Oxman and Zaria Forman. I feel they are really pushing the boundaries and shining a creative light on climate change and the environment.

MKM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

SA: Be patient and trust the process. It’s something I often have to remind myself.

MKM: What is your dream project? What can we expect from you in the next year? 

SA: One big dream project is to start an eco-friendly artist residency. Particularly one that accommodates parent artists and their children. I love participating in artist residencies, after I had my daughter, I found the opportunities for doing that were significantly reduced. I can’t leave my family for a month or more and there are few opportunities to bring your family with you. Artist residencies have had a significant impact on my career and process, and I think it’s so important to provide them to parents as well. One of the reasons I recently moved to Portland, Oregon was to pursue this dream. I am slowly taking the steps to make this happen. This next year I hope to create more large scale multi piece encaustic installations. I really enjoy creating them and hope to find a space where I can install and share them. 

31 Women – March 27th: Carole Rafferty

31 Women – March 27th: Carole Rafferty

Carole Rafferty
In the Mission, 2019                      
Oil on gallery wrap canvas

Carole Rafferty has sat behind the easel, and in front of it. Her grandmother was an accomplished portrait painter and as child she spent many excruciating hours posing for her. Rafferty recalls that “I had no appreciation whatsoever for what she was doing, and I dreaded her visits because it meant I’d have to sit still for hours on end without even being able to even talk.” Despite this, Rafferty developed a passion for art, painting in high school and taking life drawing classes at night. During these formative years the women in her life planted the seeds for her growth as an artist. Rafferty says, “all my art teachers at that point, from my grandmother to the teachers in high school, to my aunties in India who ran fabric dying and printing companies, were all women. Looking back now – even though I didn’t appreciate ANY of them at the time – but they all had an enormous influence on how I was to turn out.”
Rafferty moved to London for college and when she graduated, she moved to California to begin a professional master’s program at UC Berkeley in Asian Studies and journalism. From there she became a reporter, working for the New York Times in San Francisco, and eventually the Mercury News in San Jose.
Deciding to take art classes again became a completely life changing experience. Rafferty threw herself into art and pursued it all. She says, “you name it, I took it!” After several years of study with number of local teachers, she eventually came to the realization that “you can’t spend all your time in classes, you’ve got to just do it!”
Today her art practice follows a regular routine. Starting most days with a brisk walk around the Stanford Dish, she returns home to go straight into her studio for a day of art making. Other days she explores the city with her iPhone, sketch book and watercolors, looking for new ideas and new scenes.

An Interview with Carole Rafferty

MKM: Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up? Were you always creative?

CR: I grew up in a very rural community in Wales and later in a small village on the south coast of England where the road was covered twice a day by the sea when the tide came in. My grandmother was an accomplished portrait painter (I was told that she had paintings in the National Gallery of Scotland and also the Tate Gallery, but I never saw them). As I child I spent many excruciating hours posing for her. I had no appreciation whatsoever for what she was doing, and I dreaded her visits because it meant I’d have to sit still for hours on end without even being able to even talk. I’m not sure if I was creative as a child or not. I know I had a fierce imagination, I traveled quite widely, and I lived for a while in India where my mother’s family were from. I loved reading and I was interested in languages and history, and yes, art too. 

MKM: When and how did you pursue art? Did you have creative role models?

CR: I studied art in high school and loved painting, especially from life. I went to life drawing classes at night in the nearest town and had to catch the last bus home and walk more than a mile with all my art materials along country roads with no streetlights, so yes, I was interested in art. Very much so. All my art teachers at that point, from my grandmother to the teachers in high school to my aunties in India who ran fabric dying and printing companies, were all women. Looking back now – even though I didn’t appreciate ANY of them at the time – they all had an enormous influence on how I was to turn out.

MKM: Where did you study after high school?

CR: At 18, I moved to London and began a four-year degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England in Asian languages and history. Ancient Indian history is really a history of art because a great deal of it is known through sculpture and architecture. I learned Sanskrit to be able to translate the inscriptions. I learned the differences in symbolism and style between the early Indian dynasties and the later ones. When I graduated, I moved to California to do a joint professional master’s program at UC Berkeley in Asian Studies and journalism. And from there I became a reporter. I worked for the New York Times as a stringer in their San Francisco bureau for five years, I covered the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and eventually, after having twins, I settled down into a staid, full time job at the Mercury News in San Jose (in the days when it was a good newspaper and even won a Pulitzer Prize!). But after several decades of cradling the phone between my head and shoulder and typing notes into my computer, the discs in my cervical spine gave out and I was pensioned off because I couldn’t use a computer anymore. 

MKM: How did you transition to become a fine artist?

CR: I sat around for a while, profoundly depressed. I had identified myself as a writer, a reporter, and now that [this job] was gone, who was I? There was no creativity in my life and so, desperate, I decided to take a beginning drawing class at Foothill Community College in Los Altos. It was as if a small bomb had exploded inside me. I realized that this was what I wanted to do and that most probably it was what I should have been doing all along. I threw myself into art, every single thing you could think of – oils, watercolors, sculpture, plein air, portraiture, landscape painting, encaustics, you name it, I took it!  I took classes, too, from a number of local teachers.  

MKM: Who were your memorable teachers at this time?

CR: The most memorable was Rebecca Alzafon, a renowned Redwood City-based artist, who taught a series of year-long workshops in the French academic style of life drawing and portraiture. The workshops were incredibly structured, and they were conducted in a small grey cloistered studio, where every single sliver of light was blocked out so the scene could be completely and utterly replicated day after day. Artistically there was no such thing as going ‘off-piste’ in Rebecca’s workshops. Sometimes students became so frustrated they would burst into tears. She was relentless in her teaching of the methods and practices of the Old Masters. At times I felt like I’d rather open a vein  than sit through another session on light, half tone, shadow, and cast shadows. But my God did I learn a lot!  I credit Rebecca with much of what I know about oil painting.  And even though we disagreed at times and there were times when I swore I couldn’t take another session, I’d always go back and I’m so very glad I did. With those credentials and understandings under my belt, I felt I could experiment. I took classes from Randy Sexton and Bob Gerbracht in San Francisco, as well as a number of different workshops from various American and UK artists. And then I realized that what I needed to do was just DO MY OWN THING. You can’t spend all your time in classes, you’ve got to just do it!  

MKM: Now that you are well established in your practice, what themes do you pursue?

CR: I decided to concentrate on the landscape. Growing up in the countryside I was always profoundly moved by landscape and light. I don’t know why I decided to concentrate on urban landscape, that’s a mystery to me. The only explanation I can muster is that the natural landscape is so beautiful on its own I can’t do it justice, but urban landscape is something else. Especially San Francisco! Here the light changes rapidly, the fog rolls in, the clouds come and go, it’s an ever-changing palette and sensibility.

MKM: When you’re creating what’s your daily routine? rituals, patterns?

CR: My art routines are fairly set in stone. On the days I spend in my studio I get up  and take a brisk walk around the Stanford Dish, I come back home and go straight into my studio. I usually start painting around 9am and on a good day I’ll continue until about 4:30. Other days I spend wandering around the city with my iPhone, sketch book and watercolors, looking for new ideas and new scenes. Sometimes I go to the beach and paint a seascape.

MKM: What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

CR: The one thing I can’t do without in my studio is my bluetooth speaker because as I’m painting, I listen to  podcasts, some educational, some French podcasts, but the ones I enjoy the most are true crime podcasts. Don’t ask me why because quite frankly none of these have anything to do with art but maybe it’s because of all the years I covered crime and the courts as a reporter.  

MKM: What art do you most identify with?

CR: I suppose that representational art is the kind I identify with most, which doesn’t mean I’m not profoundly moved by abstract art, and even installation art sometimes too. One of the most memorable and moving pieces of art I ever saw was an installation piece in the Saatchi Gallery in London looked at from above of a series of wheelchairs careening crazily around a circuit like bumper cars each wheelchair containing an ancient person of a different ethnicity or nationality, showing the futility of tribalism and nationalism. 

MKM: Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

CR: I’m not sure which canvas I’m most proud of, it really depends on which day you ask me. I go through an entire emotional process with each of my paintings, rather like giving birth to, raising, and then waving goodbye to a child as they set off for college.  When a canvas is in its infancy I encourage and am devoted, in adolescence I’m proud of them and adore them, but once they’ve gone, I don’t think that much about them at all. It’s a cycle really, one that keeps me going as a painter. Always the next thing….

MKM: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CR: The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given regarding my craft came from my husband, who is a writer. He said, “You should stop each day when you know what’s coming next so when you start next morning you know where you’re going.”  He was talking about writing but it’s equally true of painting. My best paintings all start from a vision. I need to know what I’m going to create before I start… I need to have a vision and clear image of the finished painting in my head before I even touch a canvas especially when it’s a large canvas because it’s so easy to waste valuable time trying to find your way when you should know where you’re going before you even start out. 

https://www.carolerafferty.com