Made it into the SEJE 2008 Biennial

At left, KERPLUNK, has made it into the SOUTHEASTERN JURIED EXHIBITION 2008, A Biennial Competition for Artists in a Twelve-State Region, which is held at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, AL  www.mobilemuseumofart.com. I'm really excited about this exhibition as it is highly competitive, it has a great contemporary curator and provides a fabulous catalogue - I'd have to say that my hard work is really starting to pay off and that I am beginning to feel the fruits of my labor. I'm also getting revved up for working in the studio again - really interested in creating some of the installations that I have been imagining over the last 4 months of production on Rapunzel - the new works will be delicate and evoke the same type of childhood innocence that was coming forth in the Childhood Game series . . . will keep you posted! This Biennial will be exhibited from July 11 - Sept 14, 2008.  The opening is the afternoon of July 13th (Sunday) - which I don't get to attend because it is the same weekend as my niece's wedding.  If you are planning on going, let me know and maybe we can meet there another weekend! 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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I'm Forty Saga

I'M FORTY SAGA: Written December 3, 2007
I admit it - I'm 40, this was hammered in today, when the evidence could no longer be ignored:
 
1. Woke up and drove 2 kids to school but have no memory of it until I was lost for 2 hours looking for the driver's license bureau (it moved, my license is expired, and THEY AREN'T OPEN ON MONDAY!) 
2.  I made 16 beeswax candles and attempted to begin about 20 paintings and 2 sculptures, but because I kept having to stop - I "FEEL" that I accomplished NOTHING today.   
3.  After picking the crippled, eldest child at school at 3 pm (yes I was 10 minutes late, sue me), yes he is fine, but on crutches (sans bus until Xmas . . .)   
4.  Back home, Squeezing in 1.5 hours of work in the FREEZING garage (yes, Don got me a heater, but it is still cold), and a guilty 20 minutes watching Dr. OZ on Oprah, (I gave up taping them because I never watch them) . . . I go to pick up Claire from Kindergarten (yes she gets out at 3, but LIKES to stay for after-school "play" time), had to go back in the house for:  a) KEYS (which I never take out of the van, what was that about?, b) COAT (40 degrees), and c) CELL PHONE (in case somebody calls to see the house which is for sale and I have to retrieve children, clean, and vacate in 30 minutes . . . you never know) . . . ok . . . so then absently leave said CELL PHONE in the car while I check Claire out (takes 10 minutes), and, we have no home phone right now because CHARTER cable is waiting 3 weeks to connect it . . .
(Claire with the beautiful flowers G'ma Shirley sent for my Birthday)
***THIS IS THE WHAMMEE***
I get back in the car to see an unearthly blinking light emerging from my melted glass of diet coke (which I left from the AM/Driver's License debacle) . . . it was the CELLPHONE . . . ugh . . . I drowned it!!*&###@!@@@*.
5.  Home . . . feeling like Scarlett O'Hara, but more diminished than that . . . eat salad, boil spiral pasta, grill burgers . . . who cares, it doesn't go and isn't gourmet, but . . . my poor husband, so desperate for a wife/homemaker is ACTUALLY happy about this slop!!!! Ha!  He actually thanked me profusely . . . Hilarious!
6.   OH CHEER - my sister Susan has had a beautiful arrangement of flowers sent for my erstwhile birthday - aren't they pretty???  And isn't the cell phone intriguing with its innards revealed . . . more about this pic in a moment . . .
7.  At this point I become overwhelmed and go up for a timeout . . . (i.e., Mommy nap, even though it is 7 pm) . . . it lasts barely an hour . . . I optimistically run a bath, there are 4 humans in the house...what was I thinking??
8.  Look for cookbooks for a while (of course, the ones I want are in storage . . . the house is for sale remember, 1/2 our stuff is in storage units!) . . . so waste an hour looking at recipes on-line . . . 
9. Take the bath I ran 2 hours ago, yes, the water was cold . . . had to drain and refill . . . now I am an idiot 40 year-old AND an environmental criminal . . .
10. 11 pm - still can't get to sleep so get up and bake a cake . . . which I forgot to flour the pans before I poured the FROM SCRATCH batter . . . ugh, again . . . this time I realize I also forgot to add the milk, so this is good, NO???  Put the goo back in the blender, pour the milk on top and FLOOEY . . . it splatters EVERYWHERE . . . it is around 1 a.m., by the way . . . but I cleaned that up, the cakes are in the oven . . .    
11.  I DECIDE I DESERVE A MARGARITA . . . . . . and happily pour it in my vintage Holly Hobbie glass (which I purchased during an insomniac e-bay buying spree) . . . . and knock it over . . . guess where? ? ! . . . ON TOP OF THE DISMANTLED PHONE!!!!
12.  WAITING FOR THE CAKE TO BURN . . . CHEERS, I'M FORTY! 
On the bright side:
Pros to 40 - I got some awesome flowers, had a great day with my kids and hubby Sunday (and a Dippin' Dots cake - I don't advise, tasted ok, but is horrendous looking, the kids liked it!), good date with Don and Art Gallery Hopping with Art Friends on Saturday . . . looking forward to seeing friends next weekend . . .
It is good to be 40 . . . it is 2 a.m. now, the cake is only slightly burned, and DON has promised to take the kids to school in the morning . . . it doesn't get any better than that!
Here I am a few days later  - practicing blowing out the candles on my homemade, from scratch, Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night, Action Figure Cake!  Yippee! Shout-outs to: Donny (the hunky hubby); Bea Jurgensen & Julie Anderson (best friends in the world); Selena & Sean (more friends) and Larry Winslow for his friendship and musical talents/entertainment . . . yes, it was a small party, Lonnie - but it was great!  Cheers!
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