Monday, January 19, 2009

January Member Interview: Jeanne Rhea

Welcome to our first in a series of Member Interviews.

Jeanne Rhea
Etsy shop:

What inspires you to create?
I find inspiration everywhere – in nature, colors, patterns, fractals, landscapes, photomicrography, the human body, life experiences, art books, quotes, my artsy friends and the very act of creating.
I usually approach my artwork with an idea and then find techniques and materials to capture the concept. Experimenting with various techniques and materials is part of the lure of art for me. Discovering techniques with a new product is especially inspiring and exciting. I enjoy the process of creating – the journey – as much as the end product.

When did you decide to pursue art, or did art pursue you?
I cannot remember a time when I was not creating. I grew up in a large family and we used reclaimed and salvaged materials for our arts and crafts. I think that is why I find much satisfaction when I use found objects in my art today. Since these materials often cost nothing or very little, it feels like I am making something from nothing or giving something of little value some worth. I am certain that not making art is not a choice for me. Whether I pursued art or art pursued me, I think it is a symbiotic relationship. I had rather live a pauper’s life than to have the ability to create taken from me.

If you weren't an artist, what would you be?
This is an easy question as I just mentioned it in my blog. I am fascinated by many professions and would be an anthropologist, archaeologist, architect, geologist, biologist, medical researcher and travel writer if I could live for 300 years. Recently, I have become fascinated with biologists who catalog species of plants and animals. I think this is my desire to know that living things do not disappear without our knowledge that they existed. Even with those professions, I would still need my time to make art as I MUST create something every day or I feel out of sorts.

What other jobs have you had which have aided you on your artistic path?
Most of my adult life I have been self-employed. All of my work has contributed to who I am and the art I create. Working in a boot factory and working in a bank were good for my artistic career. The boot factory taught me how to eliminate unnecessary steps in the production of a product. I also discovered that I never wanted to be a production worker.

The bank taught me how to pay attention to finances and that I am too creative to be working in an industry where there is little leeway for the adventurous, independent, opinionated and unconventional person. Imagine my being creative with others’ money!

I have managed a bed and breakfast and know the importance of the customer. Managing an arts and crafts co-op and an antiques and collectibles shop, I learned how to display product and how to do store window displays along with many other skills.

I was a general contractor in the building maintenance and remodeling industry for many years in Alaska. That work exposed me to all kinds of tools, crafts and skills that I use to this day in my art.

I must add that being a single mom probably taught me the most - how to be organized, how to make the best use of my time and how to work with little sleep.

At the art supply store, which section do you gravitate to first?
When I go to an art supply store, I usually have a specific supply that I want to buy. Most of the materials that I use are not available locally and I must order online. With that said, I could still spend hours in an art store looking at everything! I just never know when I will see a product that will spark an idea or I will find a product that is a solution to a problem.
I spend more time at flea markets and garage sales looking for objects that I can use in mixed media assemblages and collages. I usually go to flea markets to look for scrap items (ephemera, old metal, fabric, jewelry and junk) and for old boxes to use in assemblages and to hold my collections.

What new technique or art form would you like to learn? Do you have plans to do so?
I would love to learn a lot more about kiln fired clays. I have made some items and so far no disasters, but some classes would help a lot. There is just so much to learn!

I took one class in encaustics, but at the time I decided it was not for me as I thought the materials were too messy with all the other materials that I use. But every time I see a piece that I love, I get the urge to try it again!

I would love to learn to paint and draw the human figure much better so I could incorporate them in my ink paintings. I can sculpt the human figure or use wire to draw with, but all seems to get lost when I pick up a pen or paintbrush and have to put it to paper. It takes me many hours to draw a good human form, but it does not take me long to sculpt the human form. I plan on practicing drawing and painting on my own for now.

I tend to experiment and work on my own and rarely take classes. I will spend hours exploring all angles of a new technique or product. When I take a class, I like to learn techniques rather than trying to complete a project in class.

If you could do anything, and knew you could not fail, what would you choose to do?
This question allows for dreaming so here goes: I would make this world a more peaceful place, food and medical care for all, and free from pollution, greed, discrimination and war. I believe that the internet will provide us with a new method of communicating so we will not forever have to learn from our past mistakes.

Okay, that is too much to accomplish in the real world.

So for now with the inauguration coming up, if I could write the portion of President-elect Obama’s inauguration address about the arts and its importance to society, here's what I'd have him say:

Jeanne's Version of Obama’s Inaugural Address on the Arts

The importance of the arts in our lives must not be overlooked.
We must encourage, support and, yes, fund the arts. Art enriches our lives.
It enlightens us. It entertains us. Artists across this nation contribute
daily to our economy, our homes and our communities.

The arts are as important as building roads. A road can transport us and our possessions from one location to another, but the arts will take us to places of the
imagination, emotions and beauty. A bridge can make the journey a shorter
and easier path, but the arts can bridge the differences in cultures and
pave a road to peace.

Good health care is a necessity, but with good health comes the opportunity and time to enjoy more of life. Hospitals attempt to heal and care for those in need, but the arts can also enrich, nurture and comfort the sick. Just as the body is fed with food, the arts can feed the spirit.

We want the best education for our children. Children studying the arts learn to explore, analyze, ask questions and learn many skills that will serve them well in adulthood. They can discover their passion or their passion can find them. The arts
will expand their horizons beyond our borders. With global awareness, our children will be more able to contribute to society and to the world. The arts have no less importance than science and technology. The creative mind is necessary to enhance the curiosity that science requires. The imaginations of those who study the sciences propel us to new frontiers.

The arts can make our hearts sing, open our eyes and show us our humanity. It records our visions. The arts are a record of our civilization and complete our view of the world.

So to each of you, I ask that you consider the value of the arts to society. Let’s make our nation a better place to live and let us fund the arts.

Jeanne concludes: On a practical level, I would do exactly what I am doing now, except I would get better and better.

Thanks, Jeanne! February Member Interview: Jodi Ohl


Jodi Ohl said...

What a fantastic interview on one of my favorite artists! It's great to have so much insight to the motivations and inspirations behind the artist herself. The letter to Obama is wonderful, I think it should be sent off!!!
Here's to nourishing our souls with art and the sharing of it.

Penny L Arrowood said...

Well said, Jeanne! I love knowing more about how you approach your gorgeous work; and I love your 'fantasy inaugural speech' -- beautiful encapsulation of our need for the arts in daily living.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I knew you were brilliant! This is a great interview.

The arts are so important to stitch together the patchwork of communities. Like music, art is an international language; let's help usher in a new era.

Jeanne Rhea said...

Thank you Jodi, Penny and Lisa! I figured that if this would resonate with anyone, it would have to be other artists. I wrote that whole speech thingie in less than 15 minutes so I think it must have been sitting in my brain waiting for someone to listen. I did not even change a word after it was down.

You all do know that I used to lean toward being a Libertarian, right? Well, I figured if they can bail out banks, auto industry and who knows what else, it is time for artists to stand up and make their case for their contribution to society. I just know so many artists who give almost all they make to various causes and it seems like a high percentage of artists volunteer or support some non-profit organization. And with all the businesses being transferred overseas, artists and crafters contribute more than is realized to our economy.

When we left Alaska, we traveled over 45,000 miles around the country in a motorhome. We immediately could see that the cities and towns that were thriving were the ones that supported the arts and they were the towns that people wanted to live in. I think that was the most important thing I learned from the experience. We have a long way to go here in Raleigh. It seems that with the smaller towns things seem to move faster.

Thank you all! I am so glad that I know everyone of you and hope to get to know many of the other members even better. I can't wait to see the rest of the interviews as the year goes on.