In the Studio . . .

  Just a few images from the studio . . . The roof of Rapunzel's Tower which will have a tolling bell installed inside; Rapunzel's head is completed; my daughter Claire helping out with painting the pegs; my studio break of some fantastic Pomegranate wine; you can also see the portraits painted by Selena Long of the King and Queen.  All is going well and it is time for the bells and whistles . . . I'm having a blast - but I know several important people in my life are feeling a bit neglected.  Still searching for balance . . . For Art's Sake, sher
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Another Artist/Motherhood Conundrum

So how do you decide to attend either your daughter's Kindergarten Graduation (they just announced the date Friday) or the museum opening of your first solo public art design (which has been on the calendar for months)???? I'm so tired of being in the position of having to be the bad guy or - in effect - hurting either my career or my children.  ????? vs.
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Update on Rapunzel's Progress

Here is an update of my progress on Rapunzel's Tower: This is an image of the gorgeous logo that Cheekwood Museum Art & Gardens has created for the exhibition - isn't it wonderful!??!!  Please visit their website at www.cheekwood.org for more press releases related to the exhibition.  One of the great things about Cheekwood is that you hit every essence of visual art - botanical, visual, historical . . . it goes on and on - even the old stables have been re-used as installation and video exhibition spaces - and, even though it is an historical venue, they include gallery space for Contemporary Art as well.  Next year, along with a group of amazing women artists, I will be included in an exhibition "CARE: The Art & Science of Motherhood, a Bio-Ethical Debate" curated by Adam McCoy.  Please visit Cheekwood if you are anywhere NEAR Nashville, TN! Upper level of Rapunzel's Tower, minus the roof and lower tower level, minus the 3-D sculpture of Rapunzel, and minus the portrait panels of the King, Queen, and Enchantress.   A view of the roof panels (uncut) with the custom-dyed glazes for the panels. I also purchased all of the flag/banner material and have been working on the designs for the flag . . . busy, busy, busy!  It really came in handy to have kept all of my class materials from teaching Renaissance Art at the elementary school - I've even used the stencils from our Heraldry lessons.  Everyone always wonders why artists need so much storage space . . . my reply is - "to you it is junk, but to me it is an artist's treasure trove." Just a few weeks to go! For  Art's Sake, sher
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Interview with Artist Libby Rowe

FICK:  HOW DID YOU FEEL SEEING YOUR YEARS OF IDEAS AS A WHOLE, MADE TANGIBLE IN YOUR DESIGNED ENVIRONMENT?
This show represents relatively new ideas in respect to the overall body of work entitled "Pink".  Most of these ideas have been conceived within the last 2 years and were conceived of to work together in this exhibition.  I am pleased with how these specific pieces communicate with each other.  I have been working on "Pink" since 1996.  I knew, eventually, there would be enough pieces to really make a conversation about being female.  With this exhibition I feel I have finally hit a critical mass in this work.
FICK:  DID YOU REALIZE ANY FURTHER CATHARSIS IN THE CREATION OF THE WORKS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT? Hmmm...there are always some pleasant surprises.  I normally have a pretty good idea of how a piece will look/function before I can even begin the physical making process.  I would say that with some of these pieces, I took a bit of a leap of artistic faith.  The web ["Web of Lies"], for instance, began as a pretty straight forward idea.  To begin, I sent an email out to women who have participated in my work in the past - friends, family...asking them to send me a lie they tell themselves.  I expected different levels of commitment to the internalization of that request.  Everyone is in a different place after all.  I was surprised at how deep some women went and that they were willing to share that with me.  The piece took on a deeper poignancy.    Ultimately, I am pleased with the final piece and am excited about it being filled with lies that eventually cover the web itself. 
"It Sucks" Diptych is another one that ended up holding more meaning than I first thought it could.  For me there was a lot there, but I didn't know if it would translate to other people.  Most of my work comes from my own experiences, so they are really personal on some level.  That often becomes second to the physicality of the piece as it ends up. I am coming to understand the opportunity [of participation] that is embedded in my work.  Not everyone takes advantage, but those who do make the work that much richer.
FICK:  DO YOU HAVE MORE IDEAS FOR ADDITIONAL PIECES OR SERIES WHICH WILL BE OFF-SHOOTS OF THIS EXHIBITION?
I started using myself in my photographic work as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa.  During Grad School I went all out and did a series of photographs that really put me out there.  I haven't done that so blatantly since then.  I seem like a pretty outgoing person, but getting back on the horse, so to speak, was a challenge.  One of the things that has always interested me in this work is facing my own taboos and demons.  I never ask a viewer to take part in a piece that I haven't done myself.  I believe this is why people are so willing to participate in my work.  Without total exposure, total honesty on my end, I can't expect it from them. 
How does it feel?  It is nerve-wrecking, exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.  I guess younger generations should just take risks and be OK with failures when they happen.  I have been interested by many comments from people who are younger who seem to be getting the message, before seeing my work.  The feminism challenge ebbs and flows.  I would like to see them figure out how to stop the ebb, those decades where we move too far backwards.  I try not to be preachy about my feminist/humanist beliefs, with the work or in talks/interviews.  I have my beliefs, one of which is that you can draw more flies with honey than with angry feminist diatribes...wait, is that how that one goes?  My main goal is to get people to think about what they believe, where their beliefs come from, [and] possibly change along the way.
Libby Rowe is a Professor of Photography at Vanderbilt University.  Her exhibition "PINK" is on view at the Leu Gallery, Belmont University, through March 6.
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Pink - Art Review of Libby Rowe's Recent Exhibition

Opening on Jan. 30, 2008 - Libby Rowe's PINK exhibition was a great success.  Filled with participating viewers, PINK was more performance art than observatory.  For artist's statement and additional images, see www.libbyrowe.com . It was exciting to see an exhibition so thoroughly evaluate what it means to be a woman and how society has effected the outcome of girls and the subsequent lives of future women, and thereby their future generations.  The recent exhibition http://www.wackatnmwa.org/  WACK!  covers female artists from 1965-1980.  Should anyone ever curate an exhibition of female artists, of which I am waiting with baited, anticipatory breathe, from our contemporary times, Libby Rowe deserves a spot! Visually ROWE covered every aspect for the impact of PINK - from the strings on the labels for WEB OF LIES to the authentic glass shelving which displays the embellishments for LEARNING FEMININE - SISTERS, to the hue of ink on the labels, every detail was deliberate and successful.      Overseeing the entire environment were two LIBBYs, one her everyday persona: wife, teacher, artist, daughter, and friend, which frequents the artistic venues of Nashville and Vanderbilt to a new, renovated LIBBY: "costumed" in a vintage pink and black polka dot dress which she fashioned herself, to her tidy heels and pantyhose - she was feminized literally from the crown of her head (beauty-shopped hair) and makeup, to her pedicured toes.  The transformation from the androgynous everyday LIBBY to the 50's ideal of womanhood LIBBY was historically recorded via video and photography which became part of the series. In the piece, IT SUCKS, Rowe is concentric with artist Catherine Obie, www.gladstonegallery.com www.regenprojects.com, as recently exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art*.  Please keep in mind, however, that ROWE's artwork stands on its own, separate from the box of feminist art.  One paints/writes/acts what one knows, in this way ROWE has provided a clear biological and biographical microscope into the mind of a specific era of humans - those raised by unknowing conformist baby boomers.  Such parents still cling to the ideals of "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" families - thus setting themselves and their children up for crisis's of identity.  This identity issue can be manifested in many ways - ROWE provides us with an analytic, female version of an artistic soul.  The main question in PINK is: what, TODAY, defines feminine???  In our societal quest for tolerance, this question and answer is no longer gender based.  Just as an artist wishes to be judged on the merits of their work/lives/worldviews - so, too, do individuals -  regardless of their race, gender, social status, or religion.  We are lucky that ROWE provides in her artist's statement an open and clear view of her individual experiences and philosophies.  These insights provide the viewer with direct lines of understanding.  PINK is a documentary of her quest to understand her own femininity and to redefine it for her future.  Many contemporary artists prefer ambiguity - with ROWE, what you see is what you get.  This is one of the most refreshing aspects of her work.  The deeper experience comes when you follow her pointing finger to the broader connections leading to societal, political, and, YES!, feminist agendas.  It is notable that during the participatory phase of CHIN UP (wherein the viewer becomes a willing participant in choosing a pair of pink, high heel shoes [provided in sizes 5 -13], and walks a PINK line across the gallery, turns, and returns to the starting point, all the while precariously balancing white dishware on their heads; in the event of failure, the viewer/participant/enactor is allowed to clean up after themselves by using a pink-handled broom, sweeping the remnants of their failure into a communal pile).  This was the strongest metaphor - that the failures (and successes) of all are irrevocably related to the whole - that singularity can be both celebrated and understood, literally supported and assimilated into the whole.  Many males participated - it was unnerving to view a male college student and a young boy practicing the roles that have been forced upon females for millenniums - willingly and with humor.    Blake Glopkin stated, regarding feminist art in his April 2007 "What is Feminist Art" article in the Washington Post, ". . . [i]t pushed instead for work that talked about crucial issues in the world outside. Ever since feminism, in all areas of art making, the message has mattered as much as the medium." I couldn't state more clearly that feminist art is not a contained, unattached "ism" within art - all humans are products of some female, thereby relating feminist art 100% to the entire human race.      (My personal favorite - the Participatory Web of Lies) *Brooklyn Museum of Art contains one of the only databases of feminist art, The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/ (note: any mistakes on titles or intent are solely the fault of me, the writer!  This review is my interpretation of PINK - there were so many more thoughts on individuals pieces, this is just the tip of the iceberg - I hope you enjoy exploring Rowe's artwork through my eyes).
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RAPUNZEL MODEL COMPLETED

So, hooray, Tuesday I finished the Rapunzel model.  One of the great benefits is that I finished EARLY.  I have learned that with children, you MUST bump up your deadlines because you never know what might come up.  This buffer is necessary for your sanity, your career, and your family. Note, this process did not work for me last week when the two Chicago organizers didn't send me my exhibition paperwork until 2 days before the deadlines.  So, I am very appreciative of organizers that are considerate in their time lines! Rapunzel's model will be reviewed by the museum curator on Friday - which means I actually have time to make any changes or tweak any ideas I might have.  So, there you have even another reason to FINISH YOUR WORK EARLY!  Yes, I was the geeky student that finished my term-papers early and then took the advantage of extra time to really finesse them - students hated me, and MOST professors loved me.  NOTE:  I have had major problems with some professors, usually because I felt they had a personality conflict with me - which is very uncomfortable when they hold your 4.0 GPA in their hands.  True abuse of power. Anyway - Rapunzel's Tower will be installed at Cheekwood Gardens & Art Museum for their 2008 Happily Ever After Summer Installations from May - September 2008.  These are specifically installed outside, tucked in the acres of beautiful gardens and are intended for children and their interactive imaginations.  www.cheekwood.org The main feature of my design is that children will be able to rappel up the wall using Rapunzel's braid (made of nylon roping).  The rock-climbing wall will have two levels of difficulty - flat and one that is inclined for the younger kids.  Near Rapunzel's window will be a bell that they can ring when they reach the top.  This installation is based on tower designs I saw during our June 2007 trip to Italy - it is literally a pastiche of styles and I have attempted to visualize the vibrant colors of the mosaics and varying marbles used in Italy. Even though I had thought about this design for more than a year - when it came down to making the model I went through 3 different versions!  I thought I was so set, but the practicality, materials, and aesthetics are something you have to see and feel.  On the back view, left, is the actually cone hat for the full-sized Rapunzel - it will glitter in the sun - it is made of mylar, wire, and cut plexi. I am lucky to have enlisted the help of two former studio-mates for some of the detail work - they will be painting the panels for the King/Queen/Enchantress which will be located on the three other sides of the window level.  This idea reiterates the Italian architecture - especially as seen in Rome, where the vibrant mosaic portraits were placed just under the roof lines. Selena Long will be painting the 36" x 36" (Gothic window-shaped) panels for the King and Queen (Rapunzel's birth parents) and Denise Johnson will be painting the same size panel for the Enchantress. I am excited to be able to hire these artists and actually pay them for some art work!  I could do these panels myself and keep more profit from the contracted amount - but it is important to me to assist other emerging artists (financially and public exposure) whenever I can. This view shows Selena Long's "sketch" for the King panel and also shows the silly mirror that will be attached on the lower right hand side, as well as some of the stepping stones that will be installed in the grass over a wide area around the tower.  Children will be able to have a scavenger hunt for the letters spelling out Rapunzel's name and other symbols from the story.  Cheekwood is fabulous at providing activity books for the kids based on the designs which prompts their curiosity and learning.  The opposite side will have a similar silly mirror and the back lower panel will have texture plates for the exploration of the youngest children (fake grass, sponges, leather, etc.) Hope you enjoy the creative process shown and if I make any further changes BEFORE Friday, I will keep you posted! For Art's Sake, sher fick (Below - Sketches for the Enchantress (by Denise Johnson) and the Queen by Selena Long - the queen is shown with the rampion/lettuce which she coveted - it is the reason she lost her daughter to the Enchantress).
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BUILD A BRIDGE AND GET OVER IT

So I ended last week absolutely LIVID about my art career and, well, honestly about the other priorities which put it, once again, on the back burner. (Even several soaks in a bubble bath did not solve this issue).  Due to some family illnesses and continued viewing of our FOR SALE (for 4 months) home, I missed 2 deadlines for exhibitions I had been INVITED into in Chicago.  I can't even tell you the crushing weight of this - here is another example of how artists-mothers have to make choices that can damage their careers (or, at the very least, stall them). No, I am not resentful of the other priorities.  These are two separate issues - when they collide it is just like being torn in two or drawn and quartered.  So, to maintain some level of sanity - you just have to let one or the other go. So, I BUILD A BRIDGE AND GET OVER IT. The moment I decided to release myself from those two deadlines was exquisitely freeing.  I still mourn those opportunities, but I know that I made the right decision for myself, my family members, and my conscience. I am proud I was able to stand back and, even though I was emotionally involved, I made a correct choice. One of the processes I use in my life is the 5-5-5 question: How will this decision effect my life in 5 minutes, 5 months, and 5 years? The one difference for me is that I have to weigh two issues side-by-side, so in 5 minutes I will be devastated that I missed the deadlines and in 5 minutes I will be on the phone making a Dr's appointment; in 5 months I will have 2 less national exhibitions on my resume and I will have less exposure for my art, thus missing many opportunities AND in 5 months my family members will be healthy and cared for and know that I put them first; in 5 years my career will probably have absorbed the setback of missing these exhibitions and in 5 years these family members will have forgotten my choice (maybe even by 5 months), but overall I hope they absorb the fact that I am there ALWAYS, no matter what - and that is worth more to me than anything. And here is another bonus, I am actually VERY PROUD of myself.  I feel I have made a choice of integrity and that, in the end, that stance will be returned to me tenfold or one hundredfold from the art universe. For Art's Sake, Sher
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On-line Interview by Erica Volpe of West Chester University

Conducted on November 30, 2007 VOLPE: PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR Name, age, location etc.  FICK:  Sher Fick, turning 40 this weekend, currently residing in Rural Tennessee. Midwest until age 18, Atlanta until age 22, Princeton NJ,  Atlanta, Panhandle, FL (age 26-36), Rural TN since 2003. Raised in Rural Illinois/Indiana.  I became obsessed with art from age  4. My first success was being asked by my first grade teacher to paint a manger mural for Christmas - it was a huge wall-sized piece and I had to get on a step stool to put the star in the sky.  In second grade I did a  Bicentennial Poster of Betsy Ross sewing the flag - I remember putting in the wood grain on the churn standing by her side.  On a negative note I also remember painting an old-fashioned girl (long flowing dress) in a field and having fellow 5th grade boys say it was a Kotex ad . . . I was devastated!   Moving into junior high and high school I was involved in art class and state competitions.  By then I was known as the "artsy" student. Dealing with the issues of motherhood vs. artist the work is more visually disturbing, but is constructed in the same celebratory feminine materials - the actual juxtaposition/conflict of material vs/with subject (as in "Constraint", a hand-made, quilted straightjacket, created as an "Ode to Motherhood" or in "Tread Lightly", my wedding shoe altered with safety pins overflowing from the shoe), so I think initially the viewer is drawn in by the warmth and nostalgic surface and then, hopefully, looks for a deeper  message. I am not bothered by displeasure from a viewer, as a matter of fact some of my work should disturb - I think the fact that I am willing to express my struggles so honestly is distressing to many people.  It makes them uncomfortable - so I expect mixed reactions.  Getting a reaction is what it is meant to do, complete disinterest is probably the worst reaction!  Regarding reactions, I have actually sacrificed a close relationship with a family member because of my candid worldview and my commitment to my art.  I have to do what is right for me and my family and if others can't deal with it (viewers or friends/family) - then they can lump it.  To me that is their issue, not  mine.  I separate myself from the reaction (good or bad) because I don't  want to be swayed in future creations.orks/series. VOLPE:  What do you love most about art? FICK:  To me the expressive qualities of art making has become a very therapeutic practice.  I get very grumpy and "off" if I haven't had enough art time.  I also love the fact that no matter the age, language, etc. of the viewer, they can communicate (or I can communicate to them) through visual art.  To me, art breaks all boundaries.  I have this weird thing, too, where I just love to look at art - I'm appreciative of the technique or the sheer ability to express.  I have a few pet peeves as well - Thomas  Kincaide makes me livid.  Ugh.  That is another story . . . VOLPE:  What medium do you work in, why is this your medium of choice, and if you'd like to explain some of your processes in working  with encaustic or other mediums you use. FICK:  After training for years in various methods of painting (from liquid watercolor, acrylic, oil, and handmade temperas, gauche, and mixed media with collage) I would hit a wall after "mastering" the media - I became completely  bored and kept searching for new techniques to emphasize the luminosity factor - even worked with tinted resins for a while.  The first time I saw an  encaustic and saw it labeled that (about 1999) I was intrigued.  After researching I began auto-didactic practices in 2003.  The publication of Joanne Mattera's "The Art of Encaustic Painting" was a goldmine and it has become my encaustic "bible".  In particular I enjoy the flexibility of the media.  I can also utilize it in assemblage work and textiles (something which Jasper Johns began in the 50's).  I am drawn to the ancientness of the materials, as well, and  the fact that it is completely natural and organic.  I am an avid environmentalist so this is important to me to not leave a negative  footprint (as with oils/plastics/etc). VOLPE:  What do you get out of doing your art?  Financially, emotionally, spiritually, being able to make a statement? Political, etc.? FICK:  Well-being is the main reason I practice art.  Expression vs. repression.  I have had emotional challenges in my life and art is a  catalyst for my resilience.  Financially things are beginning to take shape  - but that is never my focus when I am creating art.  In fact, the less I  worry about what others will like or buy, the more successful I have been!   The emotional and spiritual benefits of art are hand-in-hand, as well as mixed with a feeling of accomplishment and productivity in life.  I always feel the need to be pushing forward, breaking down barriers (personally, culturally, politically), and advocating for liberal arts in general.  Politically, I am concerned mainly with the personal acceptance of oneself - authenticity is the true success and in this way I have found myself in a group of female artists. VOLPE: Much of your work is themed toward women, would  you consider yourself a feminist, and why have you chosen to go this route? FICK:  It was never my intent to create feminist art.  However, I think all creative endeavors are best when the maker is expressing what they know best and when they speak from a place of experience.  I am a woman - so my experiences  are related to that.  I don't want to box myself into a label, but I do not mind doing series of work which relates to a genre.  I also do  environmentally inspired work, they are just different series to me. I am currently having fun exploring this feminine side - I am going at it full on and not questioning the impulses to use pink and lace and paper  dolls. Some of the seminal pieces (before I even recognized what I was  doing) were declarations of my working out the struggles between being a mother and a strong desire to be a working artist.  The mother part of me was  expressed in womanly fabrics and "handwork", I just followed the trail and was then approached by another female artist to be included in a group exhibition.  That was the first time I ever thought about my art being  "feminist" - I actually prefer "feminine" as I don't feel a huge burden to wave a pink political banner.  On the other hand, I don't want to deny the political implications of equality, opportunity, etc.  I have met and discussed this (briefly at an art opening) with Judy Chicago - I understand her view points based on her era, but I want to be open to an evolving, modern femininity and its issues.  I see no reason  to repeat what has already been said or to fight for what has already been won. VOLPE:  Was it natural for you to focus on female issues and/or childhood themes or whatever else you focus on because of being a woman, your own experiences, etc: and what does this do for you? FICK:  I actually fought myself tooth and nail to NOT express myself in a feminine way because I didn't want to be labeled.  That created a major imbalance in my own psyche and it showed in my work, I would even not share work that appeared too "girly".  My journey of self-acceptance included the integration into my art of who I already was.  It was similar to trying to merge several personalities into one. As I explored the subject matter I began to discover metaphors of media to the chosen subject.  The idea of working with fabrics and quilting directly correlated to my subjects of constriction and concealment, fo r example.  Following these avenues led from one connection to another until I was, literally, quilting found objects into altar scapes (see, "Coping Skills", which will be my first traveling Museum exhibition). VOLPE: What would you like your viewers to get from  your work? FICK:  My favorite reaction is to an initial sense of "fun" and "nostalgia", then  a deeper reaction to the underlying messages of "myth of childhood innocence", "celebration of innocence", and, possibly, the sadness of the loss of those things.  VOLPE:  Are there any particular issues you'd like to bring up? FICK: I think artists should free themselves to explore what is important to them, to not worry so much about selling, or reaching 90% of the  population.  I hope maybe 5% "gets" me.  I also think that the most successful artists were not trying to create only "sell-able" work when they made their greatest breakthroughs, I like to say I am following a "creative impulse" when I am trying something crazy or new.  If you only pre-plan and produce what is already acceptable, then you remove the opportunity of making a discovery along the way.  I really encourage the idea of following the artistic impulse without question, then once you have created you can begin the analyzing  phase - usually meaning is revealed through/after the creation process.   Sometimes it is way down the road or it can be instantaneous - but if you don't follow the impulse you will never know. VOLPE:  Do you come across any difficulties in the  professional field of art stemming from being a woman? FICKE:  YIKES - that is such a heavy question. I do think that the number of females in administrative/curatorial positions has a direct effect on the art that is selected.  That being said, I also believe that women have to choose between making art and raising families, so there are fewer women artists in any given pool to select from.  I don't like the idea of being chosen for something because I am or am not a woman - any type of discrimination disturbs me.  I do not feel that I have been kept from any opportunities because I am a woman.  The roadblocks for me have been logistical - I have no brain cells when I am nursing, I can't use toxic materials around infants or while pregnant, I chose to stay home with my children until pre-school age (thanks to a husband who has emotionally and finincially supported myself and our children) and then only part-time, so the number of hours I could have been creating art have been greatly reduced in my life.  Therefore, my personal choices have created major delays and constraints to my art expression. On the other hand, I feel I have so much more to share now that I have 20 years "under my belt" so to speak.  I feel like I am finally getting a clue  . . . so those years of diapers, cooking, cleaning, playing, were spent in a cocoon which has lead to the final product - and I am still discovering metamorphic results as a woman, as an artist, as a mother, and THEN, how to blend those aspects of myself.  I have no regrets, but I do have  frustrations and feelings of being caged artistically. VOLPE:  Do you have another job? Do you have children? A  husband? How do you balance everything? FICK:  I was a paralegal for 7 years before being married - I created art as a hobby during that time period.  After marrying and having the first two children I opened an interior decorating business, which morphed into Art Consultation . . . at that point I began taking classes and slowly working on an art degree (it took me 7 years to complete my BFA).  I have worked as a Curator, muralist, artistic portrait/collages, commission artist, private and public art instruction - it is only in the past year (as my youngest child went to school full-time) that I have abandoned any other forms of income to being a full-time artist.  I saved up money from being a paid Studio Manager/Curator and am lucky that my husband of 17 years can pay the mortgage, etc.  All funds I earn from my art can be re-invested in my art endeavors.  I could be making a lot more if I wasn't committed to being a mother who is  accessible to her children after school and on the weekends.  My children are aged 15, 13, and 5 - yes, I had a bonus ("too many bottles of wine for New Year's baby!") - the timing was terrible and completely tripped me up career-wise.  So I took a baby break, finished my degree, and am finally back on my feet (paying for preschool was a major hit financially for me) - it would have been cheaper to stay home and give up on my art all together, so I chose to do a half way on both things . . . I have to live with my conscience at the end of the day.  My husband is very supportive which helps, but I had to sacrifice many things and had to pay for childcare while interning and going to school, so I'm still personally pay ing off student loans, etc.  This is something that most people don't consider.  The hardest part for me has been being torn, literally, between my children and my  art - I feel that both have suffered, but that I need both things in my  life. I fully intended at one point to go to graduate school to become an art professor.  Along the way I discovered my love of creating and that I didn't need the MFA to be an artist.  I hope to one day have a larger studio where I can teach workshops for children and adults to fulfill my art advocacy/teaching impulses without sacrificing my creative time.  I also continue to develop and guest curate exhibitions of which I may or may not be a participating artist.  These side ventures tend to fund the art supplies and can at times even create a positive balance sheet.  I am also involved  in group or individual creations of public art installations which are paid contracts . . . that keeps expenses covered and is a great network/marketing tool for the individual w VOLPE: Are you satisfied, overjoyed, anxious? What  would you like to change for you----what do you really, really, really want? FICK:  Five years ago I created 5 Year Goals - I reached all of them ahead of schedule.  I am making new "bigger" goals and I am ecstatic at this point. Conversely, it terrifies me that I have to commit so far in advance  to contracts on "intangible" ideas.  I think that is my perfection gene and the feelings of inadequacy that was drilled into me as a "Christian" girl, also having 3 children I understand the fact that you have to leave buffer zones of time and funds as you never know what might happen to delay things. One of my biggest hurdles was the decision to sell our house to purchase one with 1000 sq ft of studio space for me.  This will enable me to be accessible to the children before/after school, but I will be able to gain access to my studio at any time of day or night (I am definitely a night  owl).  This is a huge decision, but one that I feel will benefit all of us  - I won't feel so guilty in being away so much.  The biggest negative is  that I won't be in "town" in the middle of all the art networking.  I will have to make big efforts to attend openings, drop in on fellow artists, lunch, etc. - it is amazing the information that flies through the air between artists.  I will greatly miss that - I will also hold open studio times at my place for fellow artists to drop in for work days and I also spend days in other artist's  studios working on "hand" work. VOLPE:  Are there any words of advice you would like the whole human race to know, and/or especially up and coming women  artists. FICK: Trust yourself.  Joseph Campbell says it the  best - "Follow Your Bliss".  For me, my best results have always been when I followed my instincts rather than the advice of others.  That being said, I have a very tight group of mentors whom I regularly enlist for feedback -  these are people that "get" me, that I respect for their own intelligence and work ethic.  If I do not admire the person (morally, ethically), I do not give credit to their opinions.  If I feel someone is tearing me down just for the fun of it, I review if it is someone I respect . . . if not, then I let it go.  Most  constructive criticism is provided from givers. Negative and mean-spirited critiques are given from takers.  Distinguishing between the two has really helped me move forward and not be side-tracked in my work. I also think that being free of grades is incredibly invigorating.   Some colleagues find it impossible to be self-disciplined, but it has been the opposite for me.  I feel let loose on the world instead of held back.   I think you need to weigh the source, decide if it applies to you, and make personal decisions on your work.  In that way, you are completely responsible for any successes or failures.  I don't believe any work is a failure, by doing we move forward to the next piece, in that sense all pieces are linked to the previous - make, make, make and the success (knowing that you have expressed what you intended) will follow. Also there are no absolutes.  One professor might have said "DON'T USE  ANY TEXT IN YOUR ART", but then you see an exhibition notice for a purchase award for a library gallery which required the use of text . . . so, don't exclude yourself from opportunities based on someone else's rules.  Find your own rules, create them if you have to . . . let them be flexible. I take every opportunity I can get to share my philosophy and art with others.  It has been a blessing and encouragement to me to encounter in my day-to-day life such open-minded and invigorating spirits.  So if someone asks me what I do, I proudly reply "I am an artist and a mother" - if they are interested in more, I give it, if their eyes glaze over, I shut up.  The perception of being an artist in America is very different from what you encounter in Europe - there they practically bow at your feet, here they  snicker.  Strangers, family, (former) friends actually feel it is selfish of me to apply my energies to my art, that I am "indulging" myself, almost like a drug addict.  To me, being an artist is a gift and a burden.  To  have the gift of creativity means you should honor and protect it.  Of all the liberal arts, I think Visual Artists get the biggest put down.  It offends me, so any opportunity I can have to further the understanding and acceptance of Visual Arts are greatly appreciated.  If I had no creativity,  I would definitely be a Philosophy or Art Philosophy Professor.  I think that educationally, the philosophies play a major role in advocacy for all liberal arts - they can actually teach someone how to appreciate and analyze art.  The more people who understand, the more support we, the artists, will have. ~~~~~~~~~~~~END of INTERVIEW~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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Self-Expression in Art

Quite Contrary, 2007 by Sher Fick (encaustic on board, paintbrush)
Creating art is ultimately a healing process of self-expression, self-evaluation, and self-discovery.  Art can be manifested in many ways: writing, painting, sculpting, acting, performing, teaching, and reaching out through charity.  With this broad definition we realize that the mere act of breathing can be considered a form of art.  In our day-to-day communications, person-to-person, parent-to-child, friend-to-friend, and down through the chain of life, we are developing ourselves, which will lead towards a becoming, of our final masterpiece and legacy, the circumference of our human existence. "None of us really changes over time, we only become more fully what we are" (Rice, 248).  Travail and adversity merely proves to our spiritual soul that we are alive, "we bleed just to know we're alive" (GooGoo Dolls).  By experiencing our lives more fully, breathing deeper, feeling more joy and pain; one can begin to have the information from which to draw forth creativity.  By allowing the pain and joy to have an outlet through any form of art, we facilitate healing from the pain and increase the capacity for more joy in our lives.  The roller coaster can peak only as far as it plummets. Any art form is about the self-expression of the artist in question.  While the viewer might find a particular artwork to be morally offensive and degenerate (for instance, Mapplethorpe's photography of young children in seemingly sexually exploitative environments and poses), is it society's job to judge whether "right" or "wrong?"  One can only speak for oneself in these matters.  Such emotionally relative considerations are personal choices and society should trust individuals to decide for themselves - whether they wish to support a controversial artist with their personal funds.  The pursuit of self-release and healing in the act of creating art should never be censored by any society, religion, or political forum.  Only the financial support of such art is a valid concern. By reaching a conclusion that art is a form of expression, a facilitator of communication of human emotion and concern, we see that an entire world is open for interpretation.  Before judging art, you should consider from where the art is coming.  An artist's statement is always helpful in this regard, however, an artist statement is not always provided.  So, then, how do we judge the intent of the artist? One way is to set up a list of assumptions which can be used to fill in the missing information from the artist.  Obviously, making art is sacred to the artist or he/she would not be doing it (I'm excluding commercial/decorative art here, which is produced for the masses as a product).  Also, we know that our forms of communication are reflective of our pasts.  Our language, habits, beliefs, and symbols have to do with our life's journey, so by identifying these mannerisms we can begin to communicate with the artist through their artwork. By celebrating the mere act of an artist's ability to even attempt to express themselves through the visual and audio worlds, we can reach a level of understanding towards the artist.  This is not to be misconstrued as agreement with an artist's style or subject matter, but merely respect, tolerance, and acknowledgment of the artist's human right to express him/herself in the manner in which he/she chooses. Many draw a line when the artist might involve others in their creative process.  If others might be injured (physically or emotionally) through the act of creativity, then we have reached a moral atrocity.  Hitler's form of art, his experimentation with human life, is morally reprehensible, few would argue that fact - it is astounding to realize he began his young adulthood attending art college - unsuccessfully, I might add.  Had he reached a level of self-expression which leads to self-healing, earlier in his life, it is possible he would not have become the monster he himself created. "Human beings casts their own shadows" (Sister Wendy), by accepting responsibility for the creation of their inspirations, by sharing with others an inner doorway into their souls, all artists (all humans) can explore and share spiritual healing and greater joy.  Only by observing other artworks, and continually increasing their bank of techniques and knowlegde, can an artist draw forth additional insights which will increase their own ability of self-expression and self-healing. A true friend is love with understanding.  Art and all of its forms can be considered as friends of our soul's ultimate desire. Works Cited: Rice, Anne.  The Vampire Lestat, quote from character Lestat, Bantham, New York, 1986. Goo Goo Dolls, City of Angels Soundtrack, 1998. PBS Special, Sister Wendy's History of Painting, Volume II (Renaissance Art), 1996.
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Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza   By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars. It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance. Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology. Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing. Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact? Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world? To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries. Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2). By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society. Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment). Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006 By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children. Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents. After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love). We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia. Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view. Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there. In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us. WORKS CITED: Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992. Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991. Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961. Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995. Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992. Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998. Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995. Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.
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Rapunzel's Tower - initial designs

Here are the initial designs for Rapunzel's Tower to be installed at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens & Art Museum, Nashville, TN for the Summer 2008 "Happily Ever After" garden installations . . . I am happy to have Selena Long as a fellow artist on this endeavor.  We are excited that another artist, Lisa Bachman, who worked with us on Adrienne Outlaw's design of Peter Rabbit's Garden for last year's "Once Upon a Garden" exhibition, is also going solo for the Rumpelstiltskin design!  Adrienne Outlaw has been a fabulous mentor to all of her interns - check out her website at www.adrienneoutlaw.com !  Hooray for Lisa Bachman!  And me (I'm excited, too)! The design is based on this tower we saw in Burano, Italy during our Summer 2007 travels. Our version will be 12 ft high, and the base will be 4 ft x 4 ft.  The first level will be 5 ft. and will include a rock climbing wall on the front under Rapunzel's window with discovery panels on the other sides.  The window level will be 4 ft in height - Rapunzel will be three-dimensional with braided nylon rope hanging down the front of the tower; the other three sides will include painted, inverted shields depicting the Queen, the King, and the Evil Enchantress.  The final spire level will be 3 ft high topped by a flag with the lettering of SOS in medieval style. The final element will have painted stepping stones hidden in the grass surrounding the structure spelling out Rapunzel's name and depicting key symbols from the story.  Children will be able to have their own scavenger hunt.   Initial design for the King and the Queen shield panels.   Main structure design, without the details or the spire and flag. Above, the shield design for the Evil Enchantress, to be located on the back side of the structure. Below, small versions of the stepping stone idea, this is found in an old Martha Stewart Children's Crafting magazines . . . I ripped it out so don't know the publishing facts . . .   The next step is the building of the 1/12th scale model, approval by the museum of the model design, and then the construction begins!  I plan on using redwood stained with bright whimsical colors for the main structure . . . Lisa Bachmann, Selena Long and I will be brainstorming to make my lead design even better . . . there might be some evolution to the design, but this is the core . . . I am looking forward to sharing the process with everyone. In the midst of this - our home is for sale and we are purchasing a new home with a full basement studio - otherwise, this will be built in my garage and backyard!  For Art's Sake, Sher POSTSCRIPT:  I have been off-blog as my mother endured a heart-valve repair and an aneurysm removal last week . . . on top of that wee Claire, age 5, presented with a bizarre rash (at hairline and from waist to knees) which has "stumped" the pediatrician . . . kept her home in case she had the plague, antibiotics didn't work . . . no fever or other signs of illness....switched her to prednizone and -surprise- the rash dried and now has white flaky scales - apparently it (whatever it is) responded to the last medication.  I state this as the eternal example of a frantic daughter, sister, mother, wife, artist - struggling to balance all these aspects and still, somehow, create some art in the wee small hours of the midnight! Everyone is now on the mend and I am playing catch up and clean up while the house is still on the market . . . quest for creativity keeps me breathing!
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