Guild member Carol Dugan has graciously shared the text of the talk she gave at the Carnegie Center for the Arts during the 2013 student show awards ceremony – much to ponder, thank you Carol.
I’m happy and honored to be with you today. To begin, the famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams once said, ‘In every picture, there are two people, the photographer and the viewer.’ I think that’s true with ALL artistic expression. In each work of art there are two people, the artist (the creator) and the viewer. Our art is about communication, often of our deepest feelings and perceptions.
And so my own first adventures with my art, with photography, began with a single use camera at age 53. I was attempting to communicate the beauty of our autumn in New Jersey, where I lived, to my daughter in college at Michigan State. Her response to the photos was, ‘I can’t believe the trees are turning color without me.’ And with that, I sent many more pictures. That winter I purchased a digital camera. I became increasingly involved with photography and with the arts. But it all began with a simple wish to communicate beauty to my daughter.
As in other areas of life, in the arts we learn from our friends. I learned from Three Rivers artist Larry Hackenberg that the most interesting art is not necessarily the piece in which all the questions are answered. Often, a more ambiguous picture, such as a foggy scene or the Mona Lisa, invite the viewer to interact. These more ambiguous images call on the viewer to bring his experience to complete the image.
So as you move on, your learning in the arts may be formal or informal or some combination. But ALL the artists I know who produce interesting work continue to learn and continue to experiment.
Art requires us to stay in the moment, to be aware of the nuances of the scene, to be aware of our own responses, and to be free from distraction. I’m very interested in the artistic process. How does it happen? So I asked a couple artist friends. One friend, a secular man, described to me, his process. For him a photo or the actual outdoor scene is not so much a model as it a touchstone that he hopes will spark his own creativity. He hopes ‘something’ will happen between himself and the image. Another established artist, this man a Christian, described his process to me in this way. He wrote, ‘When I stay in the moment and trust that I am in His presence, that’s when everything becomes effortless and the results are always excellent.’ So whether we understand creativity from a secular or spiritual perspective, both of these artists see artistic creativity as something that takes them beyond themselves, to a new vision or experience. BOTH told me that this creativity was not something they could just summon. Both described to me the many times it just didn’t work in spite of their best efforts. They could still paint well, but the magnificent escaped them. So creativity ‘in the moment,’ is something we cultivate and we hope comes as we learn and put ourselves into ‘likely situations.’ Creativity is that spark that becomes real and exciting for us. It leads us beyond ourselves, to new places and to new constructions of our world.
About today’s awards—May I offer my sincere congratulations to all those receiving recognition today. If you are not recognized today, please remember that today’s evaluation is but one data point. Today’s awards are the opinion of one juror at one point in your development. I can safely say that all of us who work in the arts have missed being juried into shows and have missed awards. If you love artistic expression, pursue it. I encourage you to continue to grow and develop your talents. Whether or not art becomes your career, it can still add tremendously to the richness of your life. No one knows where your interests and talents may lead.
So thank you for offering to us your artistic expressions for us to learn and to enjoy. I hope you enjoyed producing your work as much as I enjoyed viewing it.
-Carol Koterski Dugan, 2013