This past month, I took a exploratory holiday out west followed by a research trip into the surface design world. Traveling from Nashville to New Mexico then on to New York—all very different places full of inspiration—was quite the transition.
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment and a state I had once considered living in after graduating from college, has been a draw for me since I was a teenager—what looks from afar to be so arid, dead and multiple shades of brown contains such incredible surprises of beauty, life and color upon closer inspection. My friends and I spent many days hiking amidst otherworldly landscapes of canyons, cacti, cap rocks and other geological formations that look straight out of sci-fi movies.
Mostly though, the draw of the NM visit was a couple of artists I’ve grown up admiring for their personal strength, grace, beauty and the perseverance in mastering their art. One was my high school art teacher, a major influence in my life in so many ways; and the other was of course, Georgia O’Keefe, an artist that has become somewhat synonymous with New Mexico.
As a budding artist in my youth, O’Keefe’s work had me obsessed and her inspiration feels as strong today as ever. She loved beauty and art-making and she didn't seem to let much stand in the way of her her nature to do things her way. She was strong in her convictions and drawn to the softness of nature.
Visiting her home and studio revealed how she designed her surroundings to nurture her talents: clean and simple décor with nature visible from every angle. Not only just an artist, she loved every act of creativity she fostered: gardening, cooking, even camping. I certainly would have loved to have known this woman personally. Visiting the places she still haunts was the next best thing I could ask for. I feel sure that I will return one day.
After a week of exploring in the high desert landscapes, I headed to NYC to assist a couple of very talented artists at a trade show called Blueprint. (What a transition of landscape, but that’s a whole other topic.) The show features artists in the world of surface design which encompasses everything from greeting cards, apparel, wall art, wall paper, home décor and so much more.
While I walked the floor of the Blueprint show last year (as well as the bigger show called SURTEX), this time I was assisting, observing and visiting with other artists as art buyers stopped by their booths to ask questions, discuss trends and interests, and negotiate future projects. Melissa Hyatt and Ine Beerten were gracious in their time, knowledge and talents and I am very honored to have been given the opportunity to observe them in action.
As a print designer for much of my life, seeing another side of a design industry that is quite different from what I've been used to has been incredibly inspiring and admittedly a little intimidating. I will always be a designer and the challenge to expand my potential as an artist is exciting to say the least.
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Oh, and that trip to NYC: it ended on a very synchronistic note. The Brooklyn Museum had an exhibit that I stopped in to see on my way to the airport featuring Georgia O’Keefe’s artwork and images that photographers captured of her alongside bits of her wardrobe. She may well be the American artist who best branded herself in modern-day history as an independent woman with her sharp features, loose black dresses, and wide-rimmed black hats. The photos that captured her reflective, distant gazes to the gorgeous horizons of her creative inspiration showed she was an artist in every sense of the word.
It’s clear to me that O’Keefe really loved the work she was gifted to create which in turn was and continues to be loved by others. Thanks to Ms. O’Keefe and of course to my high school art teacher, Ms. Fritts, for sharing your truth with the world. Your influence lives on in so many inexpressible ways. I am grateful for it all.