Thursday, December 29, 2011

Creative Inspirations

After a recent interview on, that asked me about the origins of my creative expression, I started to think more deeply about the question posed.  What drove me to want to be an artist?  The question is simple yet the answer is more complex than I can articulate.  To start, I grew up in a creative household within a truly inspirational natural environment.  My mother loved art and was quite creative as was my father.  The two had their own craft store called M & R Handcrafts.  They made and sold ceramic plaques and sculptures and other crafts including decoupage and repose. Their most popular lines dealt with astrology—the Aztec calendar and the zodiac.  I spent many hours with them, working in a log cabin, painting these plaques along with my brothers and sister.  There was a fireplace to keep the space warm and a kerosene stove and knotty pine paneling.  We had the pre-requisite stuffed deer head over the fireplace and a mounted trophy big mouth bass in this homey studio.  My father especially spent many hours in this space pouring plaster and trimming.  Outdoors there was a small lake and a wood, as this cabin, which was next to our house was in the wetlands of the Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey.  Across the lake, off a swampy part of the lake, there lived an elderly, African American landscape painter.  I spent many hours watching her paint and attending her openings in nearby Philadelphia. My uncle who was a musician, playing drums for a time with Sun Ra, came often from Manhattan, staying in a small house near the painter.  He would bring down his creative friends to party, under the moonlight, on the lake. My parents, the painter named Mrs. Kennedy and my Uncle Carl were my earliest influences. I can’t underestimate the power of the lake and surrounding woods.  The magical sounds, year round, emanating from the lake were very powerful influences, as was the ever changing tides and thriving wildlife, including deer, otters, eels, snakes, bull frogs, turtles, fish, tadpoles and ducks.  Following Mrs. Kennedy’s lead, I spent many years painting renditions of the lake, or at least shall I say, attempting to paint the lake and trees.  I also had an excellent, multi-talented art teacher in high school named Mrs. Bilderbach who taught many different media and techniques.  It was a very special gift to have these people, and that particularly vibrant natural environment, in my life as an early artist.  There were so many creative people around in those woods.  There was a poet named Mrs. DuBois who led a poetry reading group in Mantua that I joined, and of course I spent many hours involved with dancing.  Mrs. DuBois’ poetry group stands out in my mind.  In her home, she had very Victorian tastes (we had high tea every Sunday) yet she was African American and especially fond of the 20th century Black poets. In a splendid environment of artistic production in a home studio, an unrivaled natural environment in the Pine Barrens and wetland, inspired by musicians, poets and dancers, I embarked on life as a painter.  Now after many decades of studio practice, I look back on the foundations of my creativity and am considering reviving my early interests in silversmithing under the tutelage of my high school teacher and am planning to create some nature-inspired cloisonne enamel works.  Until I get to the facilities for such an endeavor, I am continuing to work on mixed media ATCS, which are continuously surprising.  Today's ATC is a reflection on creativity and childhood.     

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