Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jeanne Beck travels through the fascinating world of artistry

Jeanne Beck's imagination and creativity take me in new directions, open possibilities and make me ask questions. Not why so much as why not!

I hope you'll enjoy and be inspired by her journey to find her art.  Note the photo is of her Seeds of Compassion which was accepted into Fiberart International 2010. Jeanne describes the piece, made in 2008, as a "42" x 50", silk, cotton backing and batting, cotton thread. Monoprinting, silkscreening with dyes and paints; freemotion stitching." -- Dawn

by Jeanne Beck

Dawn’s invitation to be a guest blogger arrived on the heels of several personal milestones. The most exciting one was having a piece accepted for Fiberart International 2010. This venue is a truly diverse and inclusive fiber art exhibition.

That amazing news arrived in the wake of a difficult decision I had made: to focus my time exclusively on working in my studio. As a result, I let go of teaching and writing articles last fall to spend my days studying and making samples and considering how to express a thought or idea visually. Can an idea be translated into a powerful visual experience and if so, how?

Working on this question is a focus that has developed over time. A first quilting class in 1991 introduced me to textiles as a relaxing sidebar to a busy career and second marriage. By 1994 I discovered surface design and from that point on, all I wanted to do was dye and paint and print my own fabrics.

 [Photo: Etruscan Relic, 2009, 38" x 118", length of silk broadcloth, monoprinted, screenprinted, hand painted with acid dyes and acrylic paints. Currently this piece is traveling for two years as part of an invtiational art cloth exhibition curated by Marie Therese Wisniowski to galleries across Australia and will hopefully travel to the US in 2011.]
Around 1998 I fell in love with free motion machine embroidery techniques and added the study of texturing techniques to painting, dyeing and printing textiles. Books from England, where embroidery and surface design have evolved into an exquisite artistic expression, fueled my experimentation. Since I responded deeply to the textures in nature, I wanted to try and translate those onto textiles with marks, stitching and layering. New and used embroidery books from England, many unavailable at that time in the United States, constantly arrived in my mailbox.

In addition, I kept taking classes and studying design principles. I worked with mentors like Jane Dunnewold, Steve Aimone, Ken Smith and Dorothy Caldwell and joined crit groups to get critical feedback on composition.

I did all this in addition to working full-time until 2005. All my “real-life” work over the course of twenty-five years was writing related, from radio commercials and fund raising appeals to opening Beck Publications, where I consulted with numerous corporations to create and publish marketing and employee newsletters.

Writing always came easily to me, but translating ideas into visual imagery was an amazing new challenge. [Photo: Pages 3, 32" x 110", 2008. Collection of Gleason Library, University of Rochester. Dye, acrylic paints on cotton and silk. Screen printed, constructed.]

I began to consider the idea of focusing on content and concept in my work through my exposure to the embroidery books I read. British embroiderers draw inspiration from much artistic study and sampling. My focus on study increased after I took a master class with Michael James in 2006.

Although I was making a concerted effort to study contemporary art and art history, he criticized art quilters in general and me in particular during the workshop as “uninformed.” The criticism was difficult to take but it also motivated me tremendously. I’m very appreciative of that class now!

[Photo: "Relic 3", 21" x 21", framed, 2009. Acrylic on lutrador and silk; screenprinted and painted.]

I doubled my efforts to learn more about art and artists and dove deeper into considering how to develop wrriten language into visual imagery. I researched ancient languages, cultures, the origins and development of written language as well as numerous 20th and 21st century artists who explore text and handwriting as visual elements. This exposure has been amazingly enriching.

I now thrive on exposure to a diversity of artistic ideas and interpretations. Ideas of “concept”, “content” and “meaning” inform my artistic choices. It may not call to others, but it is wonderfully right for me.

As much as I enjoy learning, I equally love to play and experiment. Another insight arrived when I hit my 60th birthday milestone in October, that there are more years behind me now than in front of me. Time is precious.

In the wake of that realization, my perspectives on what I want from art making and life are shifting again. What is important to me? What gives me joy? I realized that it’s not a desire for success; it is a reverence and appreciation for the transformative power of creating, both personally and societally. This is the compass that guides my choices now.

Artistic practice can be in itself both a fascination and its own reward, and I’m expanding my understanding of how to enter into, grow and sustain it.

There is an avid adventurer inside of me that is forever looking longingly at the horizon. In a way, being an artist is my voyage on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria – traveling across the high seas for adventure and the hope it will lead me to the discovery of New Worlds. [Photo: Jeanne Beck]

Check out her website: Jeanne Raffer Beck and her blog: Art by Jeanne Beck.


kimberly shaw said...

What a fun blog you have, with so much lovely creativity! Thank you so much for your overwhelming support! I feel like I've been given a huge hug.
Hugs back at ya' -Kim

Rayna said...

Jeanne, I have been drawn to your work since I first saw it, years ago. I love reading about your journey and discoveries that have led you on this path.