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Documenting a period in my development that could become pivotal

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How my art education at Portland State University has effected my life

"Dawn's Rays Splash Cattail Cove State Park, Arizona"2008,
water media on cotton rag Arches watercolor paper, 14" x 22"
For sale $200

For something like the thirteenth time, I tackled this painting begun March 13 on the pet walking area at Cattail Cove State Park, Arizona. Every session I tried to approach the under painting as a spring board to abstracting from my memory of the early morning sunshine on palo verti. It started out as water soluble crayon and then it was watercolor and now it is acrylic on paper. Today as in the past sessions I was painting my own excitement in returning to Arizona.

Then later in the day I received a news letter from the Portland State University Art Alumni and Friends Committee. In addition to promoting community among the alumni and asking for support in the form of scholarship donations for art students, President Pro Tem James Minden said he will be asking alumni for profiles and he will be particularly interested in how our art education at PSU has effected our lives.

First, I must say I am so grateful for my time with PSU Art Professors. Their examples give me confidence for my intuitive journey. When I am painting and when I participate in community, I have them at my side and I hear their words like they spoke them yesterday. In 1965 Frederick Heidel said "I hope you have a rich development." "Don't make exercises:Make a complete expressive work from every painting. Keep your work for a long time to see your development." Florence Saltzman said, "Painting is a part of my everyday doings. Painting is a language, a way of living." Richard Muller gave his students confidence saying, "You have an aesthetic sense and it is valid." He mentored me in the beginning of the student run White Gallery and instilled the idea that an artist is a citizen making bridges to other disciplines and the community. Professor Ray Grimm gave me an appreciation of ceramic craft as being a true art form where artists can have a very rich development. Dr. Kimbrell taught that through history there were two kinds of painters - one based their forms on drawing and the other type made form by a painterly use of color. I aspire to be painterly. Thank you Dr. Kimbrell I can weather criticism that doesn't understand or accept painterly work. Professor Glasier of Basic Design made me think of the many possible ways to be expressive artfully. We talked about how we moved from point to point in our daily tasks and at play. We could understand living movements as an art form. I am greatful to Colescott for his social consciousness and search for his roots which I appreciated very much when I found my own roots. Colescott's energy in setting assignments for figure painting was my guide in facilitating a figure drawing group in Bellingham meeting over a 17 year period - the group continues two decades after my leaving. Prasch was caring and made me feel my work was important. Frederic Littman was like a monk in that he lived with the bare essentials. More and more I do away with material frills in my life to keep on painting. He said, "When we have started a piece with a model and the model is nolonger before us then the truely creative part of making art may begin." Whether I start with a model or paint outdoors I am aware of these two chapters in my creative process.

In Muller's class we wrote a paper about our involvement in an art object. I found this project so rewarding to my understanding that I have self-published for my family another involvement in another family art object. I have made many observations connecting our vase to world history sharing art ideas and how we as a family have and are making a small step towards healing and peace.

When I was at Portland State the art faculty had taken to heart the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. "If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision where ever it takes him." At Portland State JFK's words meant learning to make goals for our work and not the undisciplined "Laissez Faire" typical of some other schools of that period. When JFK was assassinated Muller was a little late to class. He passed out our papers on our involvement in an art form and expressed in a few words how shaken he was over Kennedy's being shot. He worried about what this event would mean to higher education. And of course art would become a lower priority.

I was lucky to receive instruction at Portland State College when the future for art and its importance was strong. Portland State College, not yet a University at that time, just started its first graduate school - the School of Social Work. The Dean of Social Work, Dr. Gordon Hearn, was also a watercolorist and he understood the wholeness of our being needed art to be complete. His art major daughter gave me an almost unused sketch book of Gordon's which I use.

When I was a caregiver for my mother, art was the bridge that connected us in our daily practice of making a painting. Art can play a significant roll in the aging process and really a miracle that goes unnoticed too much of the time. I am designing art for the last stages of life.

Posting art on the Internet is a bridge for meeting and making friends all over the world. It is a bridge to making connections in my own personal seeing and thinking. Thank you Portland State University Art Department.

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