We’re visiting with Gina Adams, a talented artist from York, Maine. Before you read the interview below, please read her artist’s statement since it ties in nicely to our discussion below.
decor8: Gina, can you please tell decor8 readers about yourself?
gina: I have always been interested in art, and the process of creating something with my mind and my hands. When I was a child, my parents were always buying me craft kits, drawing and painting tools, and teaching me how to sew and make functional things. I remember having my most creative moments when I was bored, and I would go into the boxes of crafts, and suddenly, hours would have gone by, and I would have all this cool stuff to show for the time. As I grew older, I left the craft kits behind and started to explore using what was at hand. I found ?treasures? in the most unlikely places ie: my great grandmothers pantry or my fathers basement office. Most of what I do today is based upon those early childhood experiences.
I started my own clothing design business at age 18, designing my own patterns, and then sewing them myself. I did this for almost 5 years. I found that I was not being as creative as I could be, and that I was at the point of just trying to pay the rent. This was also the time of starting a family. I turned my focus into raising two very creative, bright young boys.
Most my youth was spent in the outdoors, camping, hiking, biking and kayaking. I spent many hours in nature, observing, witnessing new events, and even pretending. We have a family cabin that is located in the central Maine woods, on a lake and very isolated. Here, I would draw, write and gather objects from nature to put in collages.
My father owned a retail store in Kittery Maine called the Kittery Trading Post until 2001, a year before he died of cancer. I had grown up with the family business, and when the boys were about 2 and 5 my father asked me to join him there. I stayed for about ten years, and thought that I had a life time ahead of me. When my father?s cancer went into remission, he turned to me one day and asked if there was anything else that I had wanted to do with my life. My response was ?to Paint, to go back to Art School?. I had been painting all along, and not realizing it, had built up a strong portfolio. He said ?what are you waiting for, go for it?. I applied to the Maine College of Art in December of 1997, and started that January.
I now do whatever it takes to put myself and my studio practice first. I do whatever I need to do in order to do so. I am also very interested in my Ojibwe Culture, and learning everything I can about it. I am going to Turtle Creek Reservation this June for a language immersion residency.
decor8: Give me 5 words that describe your work…
gina: Conceptual, insightful, contemplative, memory, playful.
decor8: Where are you based and what do you really enjoy about it there?
gina: I live in York, Maine in a house that was built by my grandfather. I have been fortunate to live in a place where I have support from my family to do so. My studio is about 15 minutes away, and only 3 minutes from Bewick Academy, where my son goes to school. My husband Mark and I really enjoying kayaking off the coast of Maine as well as hiking and exploring in the Maine woods.
decor8: When was it that you decided to do this for a living?
gina: Well, I graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2002. My first thought was that I had to get a ?real job?, in order to pay the bills. I worked for the Gap for 6 months as an assistant manager. I had been hired with the promise of a four day work week so that I could get two days in at my studio. I never worked less than a six day week. The job was not only stressful, but the people were false. Art school had changed me. Now I saw the world where one person could make a difference. Folding the perfect shirt and making sure the Gap made more money did not seem like a priority. After six months, I quit with a new resolve. I would from that day forward do whatever I needed to do so that I could work in my studio a minimum of four days a week, while at the same time spending quality time with my husband, Mark and the boys.
decor8: Do you participate in shows? Are you represented by a gallery?
gina: Yes. Art Consultant, Emily Leach of Salmon Falls Village Gallery, Rollinsford, NH, Pierogi in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, Nahcotta in Portsmouth, NH, Mary Harding at the George Marshall Gallery in York, Maine.
decor8: Can you please describe the design process…
gina: Let’s see… my work develops from everything in my life. I am responding every minute to both spiritual, sensory, and visual details from my day. Being a conceptual artist, each painting I make actually starts months before, in a Research and Development stage. This is where I do much research in both reading important books on Ojibwe or other Native American ideas; Native American oral history teachings; Art movements such as the quilts of Gees bend or the clay pots of the Anastazi; visiting important collections at museums and galleries; learning my native language; learning how beadwork is made, and what the stitches look like; going to flea markets, both at home and while traveling, to find Native Beadwork, lacework and tatting, quilting pieces and anything related to my interests. I am continually gathering all the research and the items I find and then making written notes about them. How I see them, what I have learned from them, how they make me feel, and how my meditation and dreams are affected by them, and the new knowledge. I start a painting with a basic idea of what the palette will be. I have no idea what the visual surface will be until I am well into the process of painting. I am always, however, responding formally to the work, which is based upon teachings from both art school foundation and an intuitive sense in the progress of the piece. I continue to place paint and mark, constantly editing and really looking at what I am creating.
decor8: Tell us about your various collections and what are your patterns inspired by?
gina: I collect random bits of folk art, things that are handmade. I have collected fiesta ware for 20+ years as well as funky art from my artist friends. I especially love drawings done by children. I inspired by the quilts of gee?s bend and by Denyse Schmitt. I am always inspired by interior designers like Sheila Bridges and Sarah Richardson. I love seeing the order that designers will bring into a room, I like seeing the story laid out in a visual way. I also love several different children?s book illustrators from the 1940s and ?50?s. Mostly for the details and patterning that is around the subject of the book. It is not just about the collecting of objects, but in the search that for short amounts of time can place me outside of myself. This is how I get different points of view that then go back into my studio practice.
decor8: Do you have a particular theme that you work with?
gina: My heritage, my memories, my dreams, my childhood, memories of my boys childhood.
decor8: How does your work reflect your personality?
gina: It makes me a much more spiritual, introspective and insightful human being.
?The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.? – Albert Einstein.
My work develops like a stream of consciousness; every painted stroke is like a thought that leads to another. The only constructs I allow myself are that the marks are inspired by my childhood memories; the color which is very relative to those memories; and the size of the panel or paper that I am painting on. I am not precious; I let whatever needs to happen, happen. I am however, trained to know which sensibilities are working together and which are not. I make conscious decisions about what works. I want the experience to have both beauty and truth.
My work is a reflection of myself. Everything that I am goes into my process. It is definitely a mirror image of what is going on unconsciously. Whether it is in pattern making or in color I strive to put my words into symbolic image. This symbolic image does not have to be recognizable as a specific object, it just has to have a common language. The language I am speaking is one of Artist, Woman, Mother, Native American. I want the surfaces to be breathtakingly beautiful. I want them to have the sense of something familiar, and this sensibility speaks to the truth. The truth in the work and the process is in myself.
decor8: What are the main characteristics of your work and your work method?
gina: I work differently with the mediums. I work in watercolor, but have developed a method of painting that first involves a very detailed lace/bead drawing, which is then masked out with a rubber cement solution. I then place a wash on the paper ground, which when dry, reveals a patterning of the piece that then instructs what color beadwork should be. I do encaustics, which is a process of painting with beeswax that has pigment infused into it. I am painting on a heated surface of 220 f., with layers of paint that are both additive and subtractive. I brush, scrape, draw, and place images from my printmaking into their layers.
decor8: Tell us about some obstacles that you’ve had to overcome? How did you overcome them?
gina: Being an artist can be challenging as you have to have a strong spirit and a will to persevere despite any obstacles. You must continually send out proposals, and get most of them back as rejections. I hold several different jobs: studio artist, wife, mother, teacher, and usually a minimum of two part time jobs.
decor8: You’ve already touched upon this, but where do you find inspiration?
gina: Childhood and children, nature, collecting of objects from the flea market, discoveries about my heritage, learning the language of my heritage, kayaking, b bird watching, playing games, drawing the unconscious and visiting museums and galleries.
decor8: What other artists’ inspire you?
gina: Michael Mazur, Squeak Carnwath, Judy Pfaff… Just to name a few of the many.
decor8: If money were no object, and you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
gina: Right now I would have to say New Zealand, as the place and the people where beautiful. I found a blissful peace there with the landscape. I just got back from a trip to New Zealand and Australia where I did research into the Maori and the Aboriginals. I met a professor from Massey University who is a Maori from Rotorura, and we discussed the similarities between the Maori culture and Native American Indians. There are many similarities, but the difference is that the Maori never lost their land, their culture or their spiritual identities. I went to many museums and galleries in search of ancient and contemporary art and craft. I also spent a day in the village in Gisborne, NZ. where the Whale Rider was filmed and learned a great deal from the chief. I went in search of didgeridoo?s and found a man who represents many aboriginal artists, who taught my husband and myself a bit about playing the instrument. It was quite magical.
decor8: What are some things that you can’t live without?
gina: Laughter, the glint in a childs eye, carelessly splashing in the water, searching for sea glass, standing in the sunshine, playing marbles with my friends children, still wanting to fly, dreams where I am flying.
Thank you Gina for sharing your world with all of us. I’m sure many will be inspired by your interview. If anyone is interested in viewing Gina’s artwork or purchasing from her, please visit her website. Also, if you’re in the New England Area, Gina will be one of 75 artists displaying works at the Spring Open Studios event at Salmon Falls Mills on May 6, 2006 from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Please attend if you can!
(images from Gina Adams)