Getting Energy From the Public For Your Art

by JoAnne McFarland in Sources of Inspiration

I often don’t really know what a body of work is about until months, sometimes years, after I’ve created it. My work is generally about two years ahead of where I’m living my life. In this way my paintings, and particularly my poems, serve as a kind of vanguard.


Having an Exhibition Can Reveal What’s Important

Frequently people will make remarks at a show that trigger a different way of thinking. I watch and see which paintings they’re drawn to, listen carefully to what they have to say. Since openings are (hopefully) relaxed events, people will often give first impressions that lead fascinating places. More people have remarked on my painting The Yellow Steps than any other work that I’ve done. That tells me that there’s a lot of energy there.

Remarks about the black antique doll paintings led me to want to know more about how we all seek validation, and the role of the status quo in our conceptions of beauty. Talking with other women, and even some men, about their intense desire for images that run counter culture, but that are not harsh, has enabled me to pursue this body of work with more gusto.

Working in Series

I like working in series. I’ll get an idea, then push it around through a group of paintings, like my series of politically charged fruit and vegetable paintings Use in a Sentence, or the two voice poems in my collection Fossil Fuel. Working along a particular theme gives me a point of entry with a viewer or reader.

How Interaction Facilitates Change

I love working abstractly as much as I love working realistically. My work has changed radically over the years, from abstract works like Harmonium:
To realistic pieces like Early:

It’s in the exchanges with my audience that the seeds for change are sown. I assume that anyone who bothers to come to an exhibition is, on some level, open to a dialogue. It’s a great place to start!