How did you first get involved in art?
My earliest art memory is from nursery school. We had just come in from the hot sun to a shaded, cool room with big sheets of paper on easels and pots of bright green finger paint… it was wonderful. My mom was an artist and provided a home with lots of opportunities for open creative play and exploration. As I grew up, art was the most meaningful way for me to communicate my ideas and I loved exploring different media and ways of making.
Do you have any formal art-training?
I attended the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University), in Toronto, Ontario where I studied painting, drawing and printmaking. Later, I completed my BFA at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in the Bay Area, with an emphasis on painting and sculpture. I also spent five years as a US Navy Photographer and was trained at the US Naval Photographic School in Pensacola, Florida.
I am a teaching artist in Portland, Oregon where I work with young people to create murals and installations through The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences.
It's great you're involved in community arts organizations, especially ones that support the creativity of young artists. Why is it important to you to teach children?
It is important for them to have hands-on art experiences, use tools and materials, learn about art processes, and find out that there are a variety of right answers to a question. To make something takes time and happens in stages, and they are capable and creative people. It is very rewarding to set the table and watch them experiment and explore.
Where & from whom do you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from the natural world, myth, symbol and story, from the collaborative process, and being open to possibility and chance.
The energy and give and take of the collaborative process is always part of my work with children and other community-based art projects. I was part of a bi-lingual storytelling group that used music, puppets and masks to share stories with children and families in libraries throughout northwest Oregon. Along with five other artists, I am part of a critique group which meets monthly to share current projects and offer feedback to each other.
Some of the artists that inspire me: Raymond Saunders, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, William Kentridge, El Anatsui, Xu Bing, Lily Yeh, and Martin Puryear. I am inspired by the way they work with materials at hand, the use of found objects, and combine layers of meaning and mystery.
I am also inspired by petroglyphs and pictographs found throughout the west. These images and marks on rocks and canyon walls are a moving testament to artists telling their story. I feel that I am on a continuum of humans throughout history that use a language of symbols and make objects to access meaning in their world.
What is your connection to the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
My connection to the Foundry Art Centre is through participation in the juried show, Luck of the Draw. I am excited to expand my connection to FAC through the Going Solo show in upcoming months.
Talk a bit about your award-winning piece, "What is Luck". The imagery evokes instruction booklets & how-to diagrams, except these are warning the viewer as to how to avoid misfortune. What led you to this concept? Why does it fascinate you?
"What is Luck" was part of a dual response to the call for entry theme, and I remembered some gouache studies I had made of four leaf clovers that friends found in the backyard while I was recovering from a broken knee cap - an event which had turned my whole school-work schedule upside-down, and also the plans for an upcoming garden picnic to follow my son's wedding.
I used pages from an old book as the base for the gouache and ink paintings and they reference some sort of guide to use for creating good luck, such as avoiding the walk under a ladder or crossing one's fingers. The hand-stamped phrases in the background of the image ask other questions about the concept of luck. Good luck or bad luck... it's the river of life and we paddle through the calm spots and try and ride the rapids and storms the best we can.
What are you working on now?
I am installing a mixed media mural in Hillsboro, Oregon through my work as a Young Audiences teaching artist. I am also working on a series of mixed media collages that combine ink and gouache on found papers.
What do you enjoy doing aside from art?
I love to walk in natural places near my home, especially where water is a primary element: Reed Canyon or Johnson Creek, where I might see beaver swimming with their young, a heron gliding over the trees, kingfisher diving for prey, hear the sound of water traveling downstream, and smell the earth. When I'm at the ocean, the worlds within tide pools fascinate me. These places are peaceful, meditative, and restorative.
I also enjoy gardening and spending time with family and friends.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
It’s exciting to guide children through a large project from concept to completion. With the mural and installation projects in schools, they are part of something that is bigger than any one person could do, and it could not happen without the cooperation of the whole community. They learn about an art medium and have an opportunity to create, and then experience their work as part of a larger collaborative installation. The experience gives the child a sense of accomplishment and ownership in the process. The students create a permanent artwork for their school, and leave a legacy. Often, families become participants in the project, helping in the classroom and with the installation of the mural.
I make art as a path to understanding myself and the world around me. Wonder, question, explore, experiment, build, respond.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.