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Where does it all come from?

Max Ernst, The Inner Vision: The Egg, 1929 I have a version of this tattooed on my back. This how much I love Max Ernst.


A few months ago, a woman who was seeing my work for the first time asked me how I made my artwork. I told her that I created a pattern, sat down and made the art. What I told her didn’t answer her question. After a little back and forth, and with the help of an interpreter (Finnish was not either of our first languages) what it appeared that she really wanted to know was, where I got my ideas from. What were the things that inspired me to create the artwork that she was looking at. It was a good question that I did not have a good answer to.

My studio art degree is in Visual Communication, e.i., graphic design. I took a lot of illustration and fine art printmaking and classes in book binding. While my studio art experience did have ample fine arts courses, the vast majority of my courses were in graphic design, typography and illustration. Each of these courses were centered heavily around conveying pertinent information to the viewer. Most of my graphic design jobs after graduation were centered around delivering information to a viewer in the easiest and quickest way possible. And that worked for me. It was my job. I didn’t ever have a great deal of creative freedom within any of my graphic design jobs. That was fine. It didn’t make me happy all the time, but my rent was paid and there was good in my belly.

The artwork that I created outside of my graphic design job was mine. I could do whatever I wanted with it. Many of my earliest drawings, paintings and prints, were highly illustrative and often times contained written passages, words and sometimes song lyrics. By the time I started creating dolls as an adult, that clear delineation between any career containing art and my personal artwork was almost carved in stone. Never the twain shall me.

I continued doing this when I was teaching art in the elementary school, although there began to be a bit of an overlap between my teaching of art and my personal art creation. As the years wore on, I felt as though my career as an art teacher helped me to open up and be more creative with the types of materials and techniques I used in my personal artwork. As my efficacy as an art teacher grew, so did it grow in regards to my personal art work. I felt as though I had struck some kind of balance between the two that satisfied me.

My artwork has undergone some major changes since moving to Finland. There are many reasons for this, time, money and space being at the forefront. But I think there are other mechanisms at play as well, driving me to create the things that I do.

What I have begun to discover is not just where my artwork comes from, but why my artwork comes from there. This is equal parts kind of cool and completely terrifying. I’ve tried putting it all into words and trying them out on my husband. He says that he understands, and I do believe that he does, but he knows me better than anyone on the planet, so of course he would get me. And this gets me no closer to explaining it to the person reading this, because you don’t know me at all in a personal/friend like manner.

The closest that I can get to why I am making the art that I am currently making is that I am attempting to get to a place in which I was safe and was as close to completely happy that I can remember. I told Berin that at times, I feel like I’m chasing things from my past that have no real form or shape, and that I cannot name, but I know them. I can feel them. When those forms, shapes, colours and textures rise to the surface of my consciousness for a split second where I can recognize them, they become parts of my artwork.

Memory is never a completely linear thing. My mind bounces along lengths of my life and where ever my consciousness lands is where I may be presented with things that end up in my artwork. These memory influences are different, but related to objects and events that I can point to directly and say, “I remember that.” and then use it within my work. It is clear that the doll that I created called Audrey is influenced by 70’s Fisher-Price Little People toy sets, down to the colours that I chose for the body. However, the style in which I have presented her is decidedly not Fisher-Price circa 1970. This is not true for every piece of artwork that I create. There are some that I still cannot quite figure out where they came from.

My artistic style is far more surrealistic, hopefully a bit dadaistic as well, and this is what I think is confusing to some of the people who view my artwork. It’s made using craft-oriented techniques and materials, yet it also has aspects of fine art design, painting and sculpture, but still doesn’t seem to make any sense. I think the reason it may not make any sense, is because the artwork is my personal memory/sensations cobbled together in a surrealistic/crafty-looking manner. They don’t seem to make any sense.

At this point, knowing at least a little about where it all comes from will hopefully help me to make sense of the pieces and parts of the visual language that are a result of the continued creation of doll after doll after doll.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next Tuesday.


The Case for Surrealism:

Max Ernst is one of my favourite artists: