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12 Questions: Lynn Gilchrist

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

I read "The Second Sex," by Simone de Beauvoir, as a young adult in the late 60's. It helped confirm and inform my feminist outlook

"The New Art," a late-60's anthology of essays about contemporary art, was an eye-opening introduction to artists and critical thinking that I read right before entering college. It gave me a new vocabulary and whetted my life-long interest in rule-breaking art.

"Stones from the River," a novel by Ursula Hegi, was the first of many moving fictional accounts of World War II and the Holocaust I have read. Its impact was in showing how easily otherwise good people can be led to lives of suspicion, hate, and evil.

2. What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

My studio is usually a big mess. Although I have a room in my home which is devoted to my art practice, the work often overflows into the dining room and kitchen - which are also messy. I think my clinical diagnosis would be just shy of Hoarder, but I do save too many things to make art out of that I never make art out of! I am grateful for our annual Sturgeon Bay Art Crawl, without which my house might never get cleaned.

3. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as an artist?

My biggest challenge is my own internal dialog: those inner voices telling me that my work is not important or original enough.

There is also the age-old ongoing quandary of lack of time to create the art. I want to spend more time on my art, but I fear the insecurity of losing a paycheck.

For years I felt alone in my contemporary art interests – the Door County arts community did not feel particularly supportive - but that has changed greatly in the last 10 to 20 years.

4. What is your most unusual habit?

You mean, besides saving beer bottle caps and eating almond butter+swiss cheese+avocado sandwiches daily? Maybe it would be staring. It may look like I'm day-dreaming, but I'm analyzing colors and how I would mix them in paint.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Only one? Well, I guess that would have to be AliceNeelFridaKahloChuckCloseVincentvan Gogh. Alice for her bold and juicy statements, Frida for her soulful, magic insights, Chuck for his original outlook, and Vincent for all of the above. Heaven knows the world needs more paintings of me. My grandchildren will inherit dozens of self-portraits to fight over ("You take it, I already have six!" "No, you take it. I have seven and they're all weird!")

6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office?

Good brushes sure help, but I must put a good positive attitude at the top of my list. When my daughter was young she once told me that she didn't like a pastel I was currently over-working because it didn't look like I was having fun. Ever since that day I remind myself to bring an eager attitude to art-making.

The Artist's Kitchen

7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

I give myself an assignment - to paint a still-life, self-portrait, or abstract - and a very limited time in which to do it. This makes me think less and work straight from the heart. I remind myself that no amount of pondering and planning will take the place of actually doing.

To get out of a funk I might go for a run and promise myself I can have chocolate or beer later.

I ask myself Why a lot: why that subject? why that size? why that mood? And to get ideas going I ask myself simply what I love and truly care about.

8. What is the most inspiring place you have been to?

I love the memory of climbing Uncompahgre Peak in western Colorado as a child and hearing the goats we could see on neighboring peaks. The sights and smells of the mountains are so varied and breath-taking.

But when I can't get to the Rockies for inspiration, I will always turn to running, hiking, or skiing in the woods - it brings such a sense of well-being and I do my best problem-solving there.

9. Do you collect anything?

Besides the aforementioned beer bottle caps and random interesting plastic packaging, I collect: art objects made of blue glass, back issues of Art in America and the New Yorker, artist-made animals instead of live pets.

10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

Don't apologize so much (although I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings!). Remember that your best and worst qualities are the same so try to tip them to the positive, such as: it's great that you like to help and encourage others, but don't give away all your time and spirit. Your sweet patience is a gift, but life doesn't go on forever, so hurry up and make more art! It's nice that you strive for excellence, but don't go around thinking that only the newest or most daring art is valuable. It's commendable that you're modest, but please remember that you are as worthy of success and recognition as anyone else who makes work true to herself.

Remember that good art doesn't have to come from N.Y. or L.A. - it has to come from a sincere place. Don't wait for the Best idea before you start working, just start somewhere. You're a good teacher: take the advice that you give others.

11. Who/What influences your work?

Besides the four artists mentioned in above I will mention just a few of my million most influential artists: Gabriela Munter, Emily Carr, Grace Hartigan, Eva Hesse, Joan Brown, Dorothea Rockburne, Judy Chicago, Gladys Nilsson, John Baldessari, Nancy Spero, Phil Guston, Joan Brown, Elizabeth Murray, Marina Abramovic, Sol Lewitt, Carolee Schneemann, Eric Fischl, Jenny Saville, Kara Walker, Gerhard Richter, and Christina Forrer. I've been very influenced by the contemporary art writings and keen questioning mind of my late Oberlin art history professor, Ellen Johnson.

I embrace new movements in art that challenge previous expectations. I haven't forgotten the first thrill of being exposed to conceptual art, land art, body art, minimalism, performance art, etc., and to the idea that art can lurk anywhere.

I am deeply influenced by what I see in nature and human nature. I try to reflect what I see and what I feel, even though none of it ever feels fully resolved and I have more questions than answers.

I am also deeply influenced by the many friends and acquaintances I can talk to regularly about art. I am lucky to have such thinking, feeling people, near and far, who share great insights into art history and practice.

12. Share an inspiring image.

The Strong Survivor


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