Excerpt from catalogue for The Mentors Show, The Falcon Foundation, Damariscotta, ME:
What do you feel is the most influential aspect of the mentor-artist relationship?
I think mutual respect is the most important thing in any sort of relationship, including the mentor/menteerelationship.
How did your mentor, Lois Dodd, help you grow as an artist and person?
From early on, Lois took me, and my work, seriously … almost as seriously as I took myself.
How was criticism applied and how did it help you to evaluate your work? How important was encouragement?
As a graduate student at Brooklyn College, I took a Life Drawing class with Lois.
She was always encouraging but fairly non-committal. “Yes, I see you have the figure there … ok.” After about a month she mentioned that she thought my drawings were “rather glib.” Glib? I went home and looked it up.Yes … it meant just what I thought it did.The next day at school I saw Lois at the end of the hallway and ran after her, agitatedly demanding some elaboration. She said she liked the boldness of my drawings but, at a point, realized that I would be doing what I did, whether or not the model was present. So I focused more on careful observation. We’ve gotten along fine ever since.
How were skills and methods of working communicated? Please be specific.
I learned how to go about painting on-site by Lois’s example. One spring weekend she invited me to join her and a couple of other students to paint in Blairstown, NJ. I had been working with John Walker at school. He was telling me that I needed to paint from life … and Lois was always good company, so I went along. Trudging into the woods with my new supplies, deciding what to paint, setting up my easel and then figuring what was important to try to get as the light changed and the breezes blew, was somewhat overwhelming. In the middle of it I took a nap on the ground next to my easel. But I had an epiphany of sorts and have considered myself a plein air painter from that point on.
I also learned the value of stopping sooner rather than later. I always admired the freshness and directness of Lois’ paintings. Working in the field, taking breaks and checking out each other’s work in progress, Lois would often say about mine, “Stop! What more can you do?” Other than ruin it … not much, usually.
How did your mentor’s studio work and lifestyle influence you and your work?
The summer after graduation, Lois invited me and another student to come paint in Maine. It became an annual visit that grew longer over the years.
To fall into the rhythm of the life she had created for herself here … busy with art-related events and friends, painting steadily and continually delighted by the surrounding natural world, was a welcome break from my life in New York and provided a window onto another way to be. The stays also included regular nighttime painting expeditions with Nancy Wissemann-Widrig and John Wissemann. I had been doing night paintings since I was an undergraduate and had decided to go to Brooklyn College for my MFA after seeing a show of Lois’ nighttime paintings in New York. So I was ecstatic to find a whole group of artists who fueled this interest and generously shared their methods.
I remember being encouraged by all of my teachers at Cooper Union including Will, who was my printmaking teacher. I was far too shy of professional artists and teachers.
I would say my strongest influences and support was from close painter friends, those who shared summer in Maine in spaces that we were painting: Jean Cohen, Alex Katz and Tom Boutis.
My involvement with Bill King, Angelo Ippolito, Charles Cajori and Fred Mitchell included shared studio spaces and the opening of a gallery in NYC.
Our dialogue about art was intense. We did not do heavy duty mutual critiques as in an MFA program, but made suggestions in each others work. Encouragement was provided and appreciated.
My artist friends and I began working outside from the landscape: fields, cows and trees. We had the use of a barn in Lakewood for the rainy days thanks to the generosity of Bill Cummings. So, while I don’t consider myself to have had one particular person as a mentor, the support plus interaction with a small group of artist friends was essential.