Art is a part of all of us…there are those who create and those who appreciate…and both are crucial. Imagine art without galleries, writers without readers, concerts without audiences, or films without theater goers.
But often supply exceeds demand, so most artists must hold a full time job to support their art. As if that challenge isn’t enough, they also must also market their art. Creating is not enough.
So the question I have is why do it? Why take this extra responsibility, risk, and expense?
I pondered this question while visiting the art studio of a very talented artist. A studio on Brookletts Ave. (Easton) enables photographers, sculptors, painters, and other artists to rent studio space.
I recently interviewed two local artists to find answers to my question. Both of these artists have careers in the medical field. For them, art fills a need, it is art for art’s sake.
The first artist that I interviewed was Ginger Conrad. She is a full-time (Ph.D.) nurse practitioner (actually working at night) who transforms into an artist during the day. Her favorite media is to include oysters in her art, either ornaments, jewelry, wall hangings and other media. She got her love of oysters from her husband but uses her inner creativity to understand their energy and artistry.
The other artist is a relatively well-known metalworker, Lisa Piersen (Gypsy Mountain Jewelry). By day, she is a respiratory therapist. At night, she transforms metals, beads, and gems into jewelry. To improve her artistry, she recently took up pottery and is finding that an equally satisfying media.
Both need their art. Art is their therapy. At their jobs in the medical field there are strict rules that MUST be adhered to, following these rules can be the difference between life and death. But these rules offer them few opportunities to use their gift of creativity. They need a creative outlet to make them better at jobs that stifle it.
While at work, they follow rules, in their studios, they follow an inner voice.
At their jobs, they have the ability to connect with others, their patients and colleagues. In their art, they connect with themselves. Conrad, in particular, enjoys connecting with her patients and learning about them.
It reminded me of Leonard Bernstein’s explanation about the difference between performing and composing. Performing, he explained, is connecting to others. Composing is connecting to himself.
Their jobs and their art allow them to access both the performing and composing parts of their personalities, their connection to patients (performing) and their connection to their imagination (composing).
Conrad uses her creativity to identify what each oyster shell is telling her. She doesn’t have to follow rules. In her studio, she has freedom. The freedom to make a mistake, the freedom to spend as much time as she wants on a piece of art. Art is her therapy and connection to her inner self. It allows that part of her that does not like to follow rules to flourish in the rigid environment of medicine.
Pierson has a home studio. Her need to create flows through her constantly. The need is so powerful that she will sometimes work late into the night after a 12-hour shift. Like Conrad, she listens to what the bits of metal, stones, and gems tell her. Many times she gets ideas while she sleeps and works with these ideas in her studio. Long ago, she learned to compartmentalize her work and her art. So she thrives on the creativity and the physical movements that art offers. Like Conrad, her art gives her a chance to connect with nature and joy.
A career in medical care can be challenging. It can be a place of high drama, where people die, fears are exacerbated, sometimes joy, but often desperation.
Art is their escape and source of rejuvenation. The healing power of working with their hands, satisfying their creativity, enjoying their work, and being alone with their inner thoughts, enables them to be better at their jobs.
And the marketing, and selling art, that is the price that they must pay. After hearing their stories, the marketing seems like a small price to pay for the gift of art.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.