Art can be made using many materials—from wood to words, an artist has the unique ability to express their thoughts, feeling and experiences via creativity; some artists even have the talent to branch out into several mediums, as is the case with artist and poet JoAnne McFarland.
JoAnne McFarland is a painter and poet based in Brooklyn, New York. Her artistic work is included in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Department of State among many others. Additionally, JoAnne is the author of nine poetry collections, the latest of which is titled “Loose Horse in the Valley” published July 2015 by Red Glass Books, an independent literary imprint. Presently, JoAnne maintains a studio in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn and serves as the Director of Exhibitions to A.I.R., an organization that promotes the work of women artists.
Recently, this Examiner had the pleasure of speaking with JoAnne about her experiences as an artist and working in the art field:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to become an artist?
JoAnne McFarland (J.M.): I’m a born artist. I can remember making things when I was three or four years old and loving it.
M.M.: Growing up, which artists/types of art interested you?
J.M.: My parents gave me an oil painting set for Christmas when I was seven, and that was my introduction to making fine art. I was fascinated by still lifes, and medieval iconography. My sister Lorna taught me how to sew when I was eight on the black Singer machine we had at home. I still love sewing and painting.
M.M.: How would you describe your work and what inspires it?
J.M.: I love the creative process more than making any one type of work. The creative process is incredibly erotic for me. I like working with light and the idea that any act is powerful when done with intention. I’m particularly invested in women’s erotic freedom and that shows up as a major theme in both my artwork and poetry.
M.M.: How did you go about getting into galleries?
J.M.: I showed galleries work through actual samples, or through slides, or jpegs. And I kept my resume up to date. In 1980 I became a member of Phoenix Gallery, an artist–run space in NYC. From there, I showed in commercial galleries like June Kelly and Cinque Gallery, and I became a member of another artist–run space, A.I.R. Gallery in 2002. All along I’ve also held open studios, a great way to sell work and generate interest.
M.M.: You are also a published poet. How would you describe your poetry style and the process of seeing your work published?
J.M.: Like my artwork, my poetry focuses on issues of freedom and creative expression, particularly for women. I love seeing my work published! I send poems out again and again, and then again. I don’t give up. I’ve had collections published by independent presses, and I’ve also self-published which is a great way to learn how to really put a book together.
M.M.: Do you have a favorite piece of art and poetry? If so, which ones and why?
J.M.: I’ve produced lots of work at this point, so I don’t have one favorite. I tend to work in series, so in any one series there may be a few pieces that I think are particularly strong, or that were difficult to arrive at, so valuable in terms of what I had to do to get them. I’ve worked in lots of media—collage, printmaking, photography, oils. I love sewing too, and have worked as an interior designer, and a space organizer. Stylistically, my poetry collections vary widely. I really like trying out different things. I do have favorites in my small, personal collection of art by women, and that’s something I really believe in—supporting other women artists.
M.M.: What are your mediums of choice?
J.M.: Right now I’m doing a lot of stenciling on the walls of my Gowanus studio. I also love working in oils, and making paper collages. I have a series of dress collages that’s very popular. I’ve been making them for about 20 years now.
M.M.: Are there any mediums that you haven’t worked with yet but hope to soon?
J.M.: I’ve dabbled in video, and would like to do more. I also wrote a libretto for a five minute opera entitled MISSING, based on the story of Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, and I’d like to write more.
M.M.: How did you get involved with A.I.R.?
J.M.: I was a member of the gallery for about ten years, and served on the Board of Directors. When a position with the staff opened up I applied and was accepted. I think it helped that the artists were already familiar with my management style, and could easily imagine me as the Director of Exhibitions.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving your artwork and/or being an artist?
J.M.: Just having a studio space is a real joy, and a privilege. I’ve had my studio near the Gowanus Canal for almost 25 years now. I go there every day.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist?
J.M.: Persistence matters way more than talent. You have to refuse to give up. Find small ways to be seen. For instance, I always have greeting cards with images of my work on them at my open studios. If someone can’t buy a $4000 painting, maybe they’ll buy a $5 card and send it to a friend. People who like your work will support you if you find ways to let them.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
J.M.: I will have work in A.I.R. Gallery’s second annual If These Walls… exhibition in House 5B on Governors Island starting August 28, 2015. My latest poetry collection entitled Loose Horse in the Valley was just published by Red Glass Books. I only have 3 copies left! The chapbook can be purchased by contacting me through my website.
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To learn more about JoAnne McFarland visit her official website. To learn more about A.I.R., see here.