The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Marks, Memory & Meaning: An Interview With Artist Karen Anne Glick

 You've just completed a big project with your exhibition Marks, Memory and Meaning at CALC (Carlisle Arts Learning Center).  I'm curious about the title of the show.

It's always hard to find a name for a show when two artists are featured, but when I saw Ben's (Cuthbeson) work and read his statement, Marks, Memories and Meaning seemed the perfect fit for both our ways of working/creating.  Fortunately the gallery director and Ben agreed!

And what about the selection process for choosing what works to include in the exhibition?  I know you've got a lot of work!

At first, I thought I would show some pieces I had already, but after a trip to Norway in June after a 53 year absence, I was moved to create a whole new body of work, and these are the pieces I chose for the exhibition.  There was a moment of panic when there seemed to be two different voices going on, but I kept doing new work and that resolved itself.  But I don't recommend being a visual artist if you're a Gemini...makes life really difficult!

Talk about your influences--you seem to find inspiration in all sorts of mediums and experiences.

I really try hard not to be influenced by the work of other artists, but instead, be influenced by the way they work.  I've admired Gerhard Richter, Alexander Calder and Lenore Tawney, among others, because they just did the work and didn't feel compelled to have any one "style" or belong to any certain "movement".  There is honesty and originality in their work that I admire.  They were explorers, and that's how I often think of myself too.

I'm inspired by the experiences of my life--from moving 28 times and experiencing life in different cultures, to sitting in the garden at dawn with a cup of tea.  All of it is rich with inspiration, as is working in and challenging yourself with different mediums.  I love it all and would be devastated if I had to limit myself to any one way of working or being.  And I happen to be really fond of trying all sorts of things and making "mistakes";  there is so much to learn when we get out of the way and just let things happen--and then follow the lead to a happy conclusion!  The mantra I follow with my daily quilts is : listen, allow, trust, let go.  I'm finding it's a good way to approach everything else in my life too, whether in the studio or out and about. 

Where are you from, and what happened on the day you were born?

I was born in Norfolk, Virginia on 22 May, 1950.  When I looked at the history of what happened on that day, there's been a lot of killing and violence, but I found one funny thing that happened: in 1986, Cher called David Letterman an asshole on Late Night on NBC.  Love that!

Could you talk about the Quilt A Day Project--what was the impetus to begin such a project?  Do you see common threads (sorry, had to put that in there) day to day, or a progression of the unconscious bubbling up?  How intentional are your choices each day?

I just finally reached a point of disgust and desperation.  I wasn't feeling authentic with what I was doing.  I was producing work, but sporadically.  I had a plethora of ideas, but "the committee"--that group of critics that takes up residency in my brain too frequently--had gotten the upper hand and was making me second guess everything I did.  I felt bludgeoned by them.  And my ego too.  It persisted in claiming "artist" status, which felt fraudulent.

It was time for a change.  So...I took down my professional website and charted a new path.  I began listening to my heart more intently.  I knew I needed to dedicate myself to climbing the stairs to my studio each and every day and just do something, anything.  I just needed to DO IT.

I looked at the stacks of fabric I've accumulated and the piles of books on quilting I've collected and I considered the fact that I've sewn for 50+ years and always loved it.  It slowly dawned on me that I could make a small quilt every day, especially if I threw out the rules about turned edges and precise piecing and clipped threads.  I kept the tradition of three layers, but nothing else.

I also decided I would offer the quilts for sale.  I've always had a hard time selling my origianl works, and I wanted very much to get over that  i wanted to make the quilts, listen to what they had to tell me, and then set them free.  Since I already had the Etsy Shop
set up (it sat empty for many years), it was easy to decide to post them there.  I love that some of them have sold and are now living in various parts of the country, being loved and cherished by someone else.  I've found a peace that's palpable, and I'm finding that I'm content to stay and work in the studio now even after the day's quilt is finished and posted.

The quilts are spontaneous.  I work intuitively and never have any idea about what choices I'll make or what the quilt will look like.  As I am now on my 121st quilt, though, I do see that if I wanted to, I could probably divide them up into groups with similar themes.  Little house shapes keep popping up, as do landscapes and references to my garden and strips attempting to hold things down.  I really enjoy meditating on them as I make them, and though I never intended to when I started the practice, there is now a short narrative/poem that I write about each one.  I love writing and am please that I have the opportunity to do some every day now!

And finally, what's on the bedside table?

It's quite messy!  But if you look carefully, beside the box of Kleenex and the alarm clock, you'll find Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self, by Judith Anodea, The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard and The Hare With Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal--all with pages bent at the corners and in various stages of being read.  I read in spurts because when I DO read, that's ALL I do!  Very hard for me to do a chapter at a time like everyone else seems to do...and I like to read from the back to the front. 

Thanks Karen!

Image 1--Birch Traer (Birch Trees), mixed fabric & ink on canvas
Image 2--Den Imigrant (The Immigrant), collage with embossing & perforations
Image 3--Daily Quilt, dated 5-14-2012
Image 4--Daily Quilt, dated 3-29-2012

For more information about Glick's work, please view her blog site at:

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