Q Tell us what you love about CF.
First of all, I like the community college level better. You get to work with students on a more one-to-one kind of basis. Students tend to need more help. Sometimes they don’t have the academic skills they need to go directly to the university, but that’s not always the case. We have some students who are extremely bright, gifted, and certainly able to do all kinds of things, so you certainly have a mix. I like the mix of age level, so that you have older students and younger students together. I think that’s good; different economic brackets and things like that together makes for an interesting student body. And I think there’s a freedom that we have here. Some people might disagree with that, but I feel as though I have the freedom to do what I want with the content that I want to teach and that kind of thing. As long as you don’t take advantage of the rules they set down, you have plenty of freedom. I like teaching at the college level. You’re able to get into more intellectual discussions and the material is more in depth. CF is situated in a community that is in a great deal of need for culture and cultural awareness, which has kind of kept me here. If you go to a big metropolitan area where already so much of the population at least thinks they are quite sophisticated, there’s not much to bring to that, and I think I can do more good here than I can some place else. This is a nice place to come and work, so I think we’re kind of blessed.
Q You’ve been here for twenty five years, is that correct?
Yes, you know that’s staying power! It hasn’t seemed like twenty five years. When I taught in the public schools, I originally taught in New York State, and my first job was teaching elementary art. When I came down here, I took the only position that was available at North Marion High School, and that’s what brought me to Ocala. Then I was offered the position here because, as a matter of fact, the head of the humanities department at the time was my neighbor, and he knew I was a teacher and had the degree work. He asked if I would be interested in teaching some adjunct classes in humanities, and I said “sure.” I was offered the position here after interviewing and competing with some people. I was lucky enough to get this position. So I slowly made changes with this and loved the people I work with, so I stayed.
Q What is your definition of art?
Art is human expression that fulfills a various number of needs. Man created art very early, sometimes for religious reasons, social or political reasons, eventually, by the time you get the Renaissance, for pure aesthetic reasons. Now art seems to be primarily aesthetics. But to me it’s creating a thing of beauty. Ugly can be beautiful, so I don’t mean it’s just a pretty picture of little fluffy kittens and puppy dogs. It’s that creative look that you have at society, your fellow man, or objects that you see, trying to bring a message or look that other people haven’t bothered to look at before. When you have content, good design, good color, sometimes good craftsmanship—but that’s not absolutely necessary—I think you actually do create a work of art that elevates that subject to a point of visual interest. I guess that’s what art is to me.
Even if it’s the artist looking in a restaurant at the table and they have one of those faceted salt shakers, and the lights coming in through the window and creating the most unusual patterns on the table cloth, that becomes subject matter for art. If you suddenly can bring the essence of that salt shaker with its beautiful shadows, when most people just grab the salt shaker, and they don’t admire the salt shaker and what it’s doing in the sunlight, then that’s the artistic interpretation of that salt shaker. You’re bringing something different, an awareness, to your fellow man.
Q What is your favorite medium of art?
That’s a tough one. I’m a painter now. I enjoy painting. I hated painting. When I was in school, I was told I would never be a painter. I was thrown out of my painting class once for drawing too much. Drawing was always the easiest for me. I loved silversmithing; I enjoyed weaving when I took it even though it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Every single medium I go into I tend to find fascinating. I think if I actually had to choose one, it’s one that I don’t do any more, and that would be sculpture. It’s not that I want to be a sculptor anymore, but I absolutely love sculpture, that interesting three dimensional quality, so now when I paint, I paint very three-dimensionally. There’s always this push and pull of space. In a way, it’s kind of being a two-dimensional sculptor, bringing those three dimensions in. I’d say that’s probably my favorite even though I don’t do it professionally.
Q You mentioned at the Fall 2004 graduation a man who discouraged you and how you overcame that.
Q Do you have advice for people who are aspiring as artists who face that kind of opposition?
[Opposition] can change the path you take in life. And Mr. Bishop almost did that to me. I did not paint for ten years. It wasn’t until some other friends said “yes, you can do it,” and I gave it a shot, and yeah people bought it, and I won awards, and I had actually built a whole new career, that Mr. Bishop was wrong. There’s going to be a lot of people that are wrong, that always think they’re right, who say the wrong thing to you and don’t realize the result it can have. So the best advice I can give to anybody else is to make sure they analyze the situation: why the person said what they did, any extenuating circumstances that may have brought that particular reaction about, and realize that you have to do what you want to do, close to the way that you want to do it, within the parameters of what the instructor wants, and maybe you were right.
Q In keeping with the theme of the literary magazine, what’s your muse?
People. Doesn’t make a difference whether they’re old or young, middle aged, whatever. It’s just the way society acts and looks. Sometimes the most unusual or funny looking people become the subjects of my paintings. I don’t mean that you don’t want to pose for me if you’re pretty, but usually there’s something unusual about the person: the way they behave or the way they react to something becomes the subject matter. So I’m always reacting to something I see. I’m always talking to somebody, and they tell me their story or something they’re going through at the time, that suddenly becomes a story, so I will develop a visual of that.
Q Obviously this isn’t the end; where are you going after this?
I’m just going to continue looking and watching, and whatever hits me is going to become the subject matter of my work, whether it will be smaller, larger, change the colors, whatever, that can change depending on how I think it might look. Actually, that’s one thing that worries me about retirement a little bit is that I’m not going to be around students and population all the time, so where am I going to get my inspiration from? I’m not sure. I may have to travel more, but I have a lot of source material that I’ve collected over the years, and that’s going to last me awhile. As long as I stay active with people and watching people and doing things and meeting interesting people, I’ll always have my subject matter. I didn’t always do people. I did ten speed bicycles for awhile. I did patio furniture and light and shadows; it’s whatever visually you find interesting, and you do a series on that. I think there’s always subject matter, so I’m not too worried about that, but I certainly want to continue to paint and continue to have it very good. And I want to paint more! Now that I’m going to have all the time in the world, I can paint when I want to rather than when I have to, because I don’t have much of a life. I paint all weekend; all my summer vacation is painting; my Christmas vacation is painting—I might take a couple days off every now and then, but most of it is really juggling two professions. Now I only have one.