If I am going to figure out the next step, I need to start with the basic question: do I need to? If my goal is to “Take joy!” and I experience it while I am at work in the studio, is that enough? Not, do I need to do it because that’s what artists do. Not, do I need to do it because that is what I have been doing for the last 35 years. Not, do I need to do it because it makes spending all that time working alone in the studio socially acceptable and comprehensible to others. But, do I, at the core of my being, need to take my work beyond its creation? Do I need for it to be out in the world?
From the beginning, there was definitely some part of me that was drawn to put the work out there. My calligraphic pieces started with my love of the words that I was writing—passages and quotes and poems that spoke to me. While I often had misgivings about the quality of my presentation, I always had faith in the words. I wanted others to experience them and I interpreted them in the best way I could.
In my early years of calligraphy, I got involved in an artists’ coop, Art Alive!, in Lowell, MA. In retrospect, I see how important it was in my development as an artist. I started on what can be a solitary journey with a group of like-minded and supportive friends and colleagues. I had a comfortable venue for showing my work and it was easy for me to get into a rhythm of making work and then showing it. So easy that I never questioned it. It was just what one did.
In 1986, I created Childbirth Journey—15 abstract pastel drawings with calligraphy of journal entries written during my pregnancy, after the birth of my first child by Cesarian section, and his early months. Looking back, I am surprised at how fiercely I felt the need to share the work. I had an exhibition at the Newburyport Art Association (again the value of local art organizations to provide a platform for artists). It was my first experience with presenting such personal work. It was both exhilarating and difficult. “Too much information” had not become part of the language yet, but many viewers would have said it if they could have.
Since Childbirth Journey, my art has become less about my personal story. I am more inclined to share my thoughts and feelings in writing instead. In my art, I have sought to deepen my connection with the natural world by working with natural materials. The consistent thread since 1992 has been The Spirit Books, wordless handmade books that rest in cradles of wood, roots, and vines. While I don’t have that mysterious burning desire to show it to people, I do take great pleasure in sharing it. The joy is there. The answer is yes.