Published in Bloom, December 2012/January 2013
Article by Elisabeth Andrews
THE ARTIST LIFE : 7 WHO INSPIRE
The relationship between an artist and his art is very complex and there are no rules; it varies incredibly from artist to artist,” says David Cronenberg, director of such films as The Fly and A History of Violence, in the current issue of Psychology Today. No doubt the seven visual artists presented here would agree with his statement. Each one participates in the art world in a different way, from Tamar Kander’s fine-art gallery presence to Joe LaMantia’s collaborations with schoolchildren. They all have different methods, schedules, and approaches to their art, and what works for one—painting in a pub for instance, a Margie Van Auken strategy—would be unthinkable for others.
Moreover, they would likely sympathize with Cronenberg’s frustrations at being typecast. Just as the kind and polite filmmaker is thought by some to be “weird and sick” due to his graphic films, many of Bloomington’s artists battle inaccurate stereotypes. Painter Joel Washington is fed up with the “starving artist” characterization; charming multimedia artist Lindsay Hine Schroeder wishes people wouldn’t assume she’s aloof; stone carver Amy Brier has had enough of the idea that artists are “the juveniles of society who can’t help themselves” from creating art. On the other hand, it’s hard not to draw a connection between these artists’ work and their personalities.
Dimensional weaver Martina Celerin is as sunny and pleasant as her soft wool renderings of landscapes and fruits. LaMantia, a consummate extrovert, involves as many people as possible in his projects. Kander’s sophisticated abstracts match the poise and grace with which she carries herself. And Schroeder, though very friendly, is at least as quirky as her surrealist art. Here, we offer a glimpse inside the lives of these artists, sharing both their work and the process behind it. No two are alike, and it’s clear that for these seven locals, art really is nothing short of self-expression.
For Tamar Kander to create her abstract paintings, two conditions must first be met. One she satisfied decades ago by attending art school in her native South Africa and in England: “The ability to draw is necessary for an abstract artist,” she says. This grounding allows her to “unconsciously create space,” developing a balanced composition that recalls images she has encountered— from the ridge above her Brown County home to a weathered wall on a house in Martinsville.
The second requirement, however, must be fulfilled anew each time Kander enters her studio. “I need to approach the painting with a clear mind,” she says. “It’s like what the Buddhists believe, that if you can get the mind out of the way, the spirit and the body can work together.” Kander, 54, says that any mental constraint—an intention to paint a landscape, for instance, or to comply with a client’s request for a specific color palette—halts her creative process. “It just paralyzes me if I’m starting with some idea of how it has to turn out,” she says. “Either I can’t get the painting finished or it’s just not up to my standards.” Those exacting standards have earned her gallery representation in Chicago, Atlanta, Santa Fe, and Indianapolis, as well as Relish in Bloomington. Her paintings hang in private homes from Terre Haute to Johannesburg, South Africa; in numerous corporate offices in New York and London; and in the permanent collection of the Indiana State Museum.
Kander, who has lived in the Bloomington area since 1988 and supports herself entirely by her paintings, works on several pieces at once, each starting with a textural layer that might include shopping lists, bits of insulation, or the sweepings from her studio floor. She continues adding paint and other materials to each canvas as it “shouts out” to her, declaring a painting finished only after she has considered it in different settings and upside-down. Although her clientele is mostly urban, Kander prefers living near Bloomington to residing in a big city. Not only does she find inspiration in the area’s natural beauty, but she’s also more able, she says, to access that all-important mental clarity.