Being a mentor means holding the space for a protégée to explore, examine, grow, question, and develop her work – and her relationship to it. Mentoring is a job of listening, coaching, probing, cheerleading, teaching, offering a critical eye – and sometimes pushing – in order to help a protégée reach her potential and her goals as an artist.
As a mentor, I bring all of my skills to the table – my work as an artist, life coach, Critical Response facilitator, teacher, performer, writer, and mentor of 18 odd years or so. And, I bring my whole life to the work we do, as I would expect of my protégée as well. Sometimes our lives can get in the way of our work, but they also inform our work. We need to learn to live those lives and to use them well – in service to our work and to each other.
It is my belief that as a mentor, I must be committed to my protégée and her work, but also to the program and the other mentors and protégées in the program. To be truly valuable as a mentor means that I must also have a relationship to and with that larger group – and to encourage and foster my protégée in developing those same relationships.
Because, in the end, my work with my protégée is also about mentoring and honoring the commitment to something larger than oneself – and to offering the opportunities and growth that become available with that commitment to my protégée. And further, to help my protégée grow the network that will sustain her in the years to come in her work as an artist. This can be a lonely road that we take, and some good friends with good ears (and eyes) can go a long way in helping us get where we want and need to go.
And, last but certainly not least, I believe that mentoring should be fun. That the work we do together should be filled with as much joy and laughter as it is with challenge and work; and, that what I do with my protégée comes from the love of doing it – and to some degree from the desire to “pay it forward” in honor of those who mentored me when I needed it.
Over the last three and a half decades, my work as an artist has been an exploration of the ideas and questions that intrigue and concern me. The process of visioning and creating the work is my way of examining those ideas and questions with greater depth. The result is not always an answer, but often a better question.
The form of my work has been primarily that of sculpture – abstract handmade paper pieces, cast masks, bookmaking, found object assemblage and installation – and often on a large scale. Due to some significant changes in my life over the last half decade, I also began to re-examine and explore one of my first artistic loves – photography, in particular the altered Polaroid – in combination with my inclination towards layering, collage and painted surfaces.
With “What Remains,” the work that came out of the second flood in my studio, I returned to my artistic center – the installation, and my favorite material – the found object. Over time, I have become obsessed with the beauty and wonder of the found object: it’s innate sense of history, story and mystery create a richness of meaning in my work; the patina of its surfaces add a depth and beauty to the visual aesthetic that is hard to find in any other way.
Though “What Remains” continues my tradition of the use of the found object, it also begins to redefine it. In previous work, the juxtaposition of opposite elements created an aesthetic tension in my art. But in this piece, the objects seem to belong together, to create a harmonic tone just below the level of hearing.
And, though the piece began as a way of coping with a second devastating flood in my studio, it ended up as a way to dream into a new body of work. Over the last few years, it has evolved into an exploration of the archaeology of life, an examination of the “material remains” of creature and culture – of what is left when something passes into extinction or changes form to become something else. “What Remains” is also a celebration of those material remnants, those found objects (that I love) that are left behind and the beauty and poignancy they impart.
Lastly, “What Remains” has become more than an installation. It is evolving into a larger body of work, on an even bigger scale, that is providing the opportunity to examine the relationship – aesthetic, physical, intellectual and emotional – between objects that seemingly have nothing in common. It is the challenge of making those relationships relevant and poignant that drives the development of this work.