I have a love-hate relationship with painting. It’s been on the love side lately, but for a big hunk of my time at college, that was not the case.
As you may know from reading previous blogs or just my artist statement section from this site, I graduated from VCU School of the Arts, and majored in Painting and Printmaking with a minor in Art history. Now VCU is well known as being the #1 public art school in the country, and there are about a thousand reasons for that. One of the main ones, is that it is located in the heart of downtown Richmond, surrounded by creativity from all angles as well as that edgy/scary/am I going to get mugged today or tomorrow – feeling that tends to linger anytime you step out of your alleyway apartment after dark. But one of the biggest reasons why I think the School of the Arts is so well renowned, is because it doesn’t take crap from anyone. If you think you know why you make art, but you aren’t POSITIVE, you better be ready for a tough time.
And for me, it was a tough time, especially in the beginning. To be thrown into classes with students who feel more like enemies to compete with rather potential friends, it’s hard to get your bearings and figure out where you stand. I had critiques where students would sit in silence in front of my art, nothing good or even bad to say at all. I had a teacher tell me I was too emotional to be a painter. This was after yelling for so long and so loudly to my classmates about my poor techniques, incorrect paintbrushes, and bad ideas that I actually cried in the girls’ bathroom like I was five years old. There were many days where I looked forward to going to my classes that weren’t art related, like math or science, just to get away from the condescending and judging eyes of my peers and teachers.
It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year of college that I started to figure out my style and eventually my purpose for making art. It was over the course of two summer classes -one with the amazing artist Sally Bowring, the other with the challenging and equally wonderful painter Loie Hollowell. This was the summer I realized my love for painting women. I’d painted women in the past, mostly because I am a woman, and when there is no one around to paint – you tend to paint yourself. But this was the summer I studied feminism, female painters, I painted nude female models and I learned more about myself and my potential as an artist than I had since I’d started VCU.
This was when I began making my little girl paintings. I made paintings about pregnancy and questioned what it means to be a woman, to be a sister, a daughter, a mother, or a wife and what it all meant to me. I made paintings that were just words layered upon words, every stressful thought written in a stream of consciousness style that exposed my vulnerability so clearly that it attracted gallery owner, Phyllis DeMaurizi, to host my first solo exhibition at Rick’s Custom Frame + Gallery in Richmond, VA.
It was after that summer that I changed. I stopped having silent critiques because my work had a purpose that others wanted to challenge, to talk about, and to feel something for. And I stopped being the girl who cried in bathrooms over jerk teachers, because I didn’t need their approval anymore. I gained confidence because I finally knew why I was here. I was and I am here to make art with a purpose that constantly changes but always has the underlying need to make others feel something. Whether that something be loved, frustrated, angry or challenged, my art is and will always be about feelings.
So fast-forward to this painting below, which was started during my last semester at VCU, and completed on Easter of 2013. It is called “Metaphor No More” because I was feeling bored with pure abstraction, sick of making symbols to be metaphors for how I was really feeling at the time. I wanted to directly show a woman feeling a sense of release. In a way it’s related to my Ba Ba O’Reily post, because it’s about that moment where you just feel grateful to be alive. I completed this painting after going to church for the first time in about a year, and I was feeling that “holy high”, (the feeling that God really exists, and knows I exist, and it feels so good it makes you want to dance and do cartwheels and hold hands). So I painted what it feels like to be loved.
I hope this blog has helped you all to get to me know me a little better. I think it's very important to know an artist, at least a little bit, before you can really judge their art. Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a happy weekend :)
Hi friends! Welcome to the blog! I'm Mandy and I'm an artist, blogger & founder of the "Artists to Know" interview series. Here you'll find photos of my latest art adventures, furniture makeover projects & advice from successful artists!
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