JOURNAL

Q+A: RENÉ SHOEMAKER + HOPE HILTON DISCUSS FRANCE, BEING AN ARTIST, INSPIRATION, CHANGE, THE dÉRIVE, COMMUNITY, THE SITUATIONISTS, + MORE

 
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I've been wanting to ask these questions of René for some time, and I was so very happy when our schedules allowed the time to make this happen. A little background: I knew René's work years before I knew René personally, and I quietly watched her work grow and evolve from the sidelines. As an artist and curator, a big part of what I do is pay attention to how creatives and thinkers are responding to the world. Watching the work happen is a beautiful thing to behold, and I draw from this collection when I put exhibitions together or pair artists up to collaborate. It's like being a composer, a poet, and a philosopher all at once! When I finally met René we were fast friends, and I always have her work in mind when I'm in the world and thinking about what the world needs - more slowing down, more curiosity, more dream following, more wandering, and more, well, hope. René offers this. Enjoy our Q+A! xoHope

Hope Hilton: I've always wondered - at what point did you know you were an artist?

René Shoemaker: At a very young age I was always creating and seeking inspiration. One of my earliest creations - way before I was 5 years old - was a horse that I pieced together from the cloth of my Mom’s sewing discards. I cut out the pieces and sewed them onto another piece of cloth (some might call that ‘applique’).

 

HH: When did you decide to pursue your art full time?

RS: Oh, man, this has been inside of me for a long, long time. I had a “master plan” to retire from The University of Georgia absolutely the MOMENT that I could - not because I didn't like my job as Library Director/ Librarian / Gallery Director (I did like it, tremendously) - but so I could practice my art full time. I had been making art all along, always, but became more serious about it in 1998 when I returned from a summer working in Cortona, Italy. I was in a job there surrounded by artists and art-making people (not to mention the gorgeous Italian hillside architecture and use of the land!) and was completely inspired. Once I began making art more intently, I also discovered how time-consuming the business of art is. Retirement allowed me this time.

HH: Ahhh, retirement... you are doing it right, in my opinion. Now that you have this freedom, you can go anywhere, do anything. I love that you've settled in France and cannot wait to visit! How has being an artist there differed from being an artist in the States? What is something that's easier to get accomplished in the States and vice versa?

RS: I have the feeling that the French have a different attitude toward artists here. It’s not different as much as it is in the States. Here it's just another job description, a part of life! I also discovered that being an artist, and having an exhibition scheduled and about to open so soon after my arrival, was a wonderful introduction to my new community. Who I was and what Harvey and I were doing there was open to the public. In our new place we seemed to be integrated into the community a lot quicker than if it were otherwise.

It’s easier to work here in France because there are less distractions. At home I have a schedule, I have friends, I have social obligations. Here, I have my studio, I have my house, I have Harvey, and the landscape that calls to me every day. Everything, everyday, is an inspiration.

HANDS DOWN it’s easier to find the art supplies I need in Athens, Georgia. I will never, ever, ever again take for granted the fabulous service that The Loft and KA Artist Shop offer to the artists and creatives of the region. I would not be where I am today without the support - and the supplies - from KA and The Loft.

Feeling spaces became something I noticed then,

and it has continued.

- René Shoemaker

 

HH: I think I take internet-ordering for granted, too, in terms of art supplies. And, yes, we have this amazing community here in Athens that supports artists through all levels of their work. I wanna talk about your new work, the work I respond to the most. Much of your new work is an investigation and commitment to a specific community, and because architecture has been a big part of your work (and life!) in the past, did this just happen naturally, or did you know that you wanted to encounter a whole city?

RS: I know I want to conquer the world, and what better way to do it than city by city? I’m not sure where my connection to place comes from... Well, now that I write that, I can imagine that it comes from exploring and the sense of place I created by living in the woods in a handmade house. Traveling in France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands gave me a sense that there are other ways of doing things, often the everyday things that we take for granted. (i.e.: architecture and living spaces and the differences abroad versus home). Christopher Alexander’s book “A Pattern Language” had a big impact on me and my viewpoint.

I also moved at age 17 from everything I knew (not so early in life, but a transformative experience for me) and this provoked new sensations, a kind of "feeling" of spaces. I was searching for the meaning of life then, and also tuning in to the details - loving the sound of the tires on the pavement as I traveled down the road - usually in a friend’s car or by hitchhiking. Later on, in my own car (an International Harvester pickup truck!), it was me and my Great Dane, Eric, having marvelous explorations. Feeling spaces became something I noticed then, and it has continued.

After having wandered for over 10 years, and landing in Athens... You know, it's a very small town - only 10 square blocks in the downtown area - but it feels good. The spaces are intriguing, the juxtaposition of new and old architecture inspirational. I love looking at the old Otasco building (now the Holmes-Hunter) as I cross Broad Street to North Campus at the University. Harvey and I had a small business downtown and I spent 30+ years on North Campus, so downtown Athens was like a home... I had an art studio there, and I felt very happy to be there.

 

HH: And now MY studio is on the exact floor where yours was, years later! I loved the day you told me about that. I looked at the space differently, I envisioned it as when you inhabited it. Not a lot has changed but someone put carpet in the halls and painted the stairs... it's a different space now. But the same place. What prompted you to explore places to begin with and how has this idea changed for you?

RS: For my first solo exhibition at Clayton Street Gallery in Athens in 2001, I offered two proposals - one of exploring the town of Athens and one an exploration of my house (handbuilt, octagon-shaped, in the woods). The Director chose the house proposal and we named it “Ethereal Spaces.” We also decided to pursue the other proposal the following year, and “From Here to There” was born from my explorations of Downtown Athens and the University of Georgia. Then and there, my career was born.

Also, I don't want to forget that when I first moved to the Florida Keys in 1969, way before University, I took a drawing class from a local artist. He took us around to the various locations in the Keys, and what I remember the most - what had the biggest impression on me -  were the old weather-beaten structures on Pigeon Key. There I discovered the beauty of lines that are not straight. I learned how to draw perspective from that artist, and I also learned how to veer away from true perspective with confidence.

 

HH: I love that, when teachers share with you all of the levels of things, and everything involved, and how to just approach it with enough lack of fear to evolve it into a confident mark or gesture. How cool that you were exploring the Keys as part of a class! Now that explorations of place are revered in the art world, especially in prominent museums and galleries, your work is part of a large canon of artists that focus on community, history, and exploring.  One of my favorite movements in art history were the Situationists (in France in the mid 20th century!), and one of their best projects, in my opinion, was setting the intention to wander. They called it a dérive: to wander without knowing why or where you'll end up. How do you feel about connecting to this great idea of the past to now?

RS: I‘m happy to hear that explorations of place are now revered in the art world -- can we schedule a show of my work at a major New York City museum now? :) I love your connection of my sense of exploration to the Situationists’ quest for an “unplanned journey”. There are so many things that point to the fact that I must have lived in France in a former life, as in my name: Re =again né = born... there is no French blood in my family to invite a French name be given to me, yet here I am. Wandering... being alive...

To wander! This is the perfect way to exist. No maps, no guidebooks, only discoveries.

And the past? The Situationists were not so long ago. The past is connected to the present. Always.

A wonderful consequence of the work that I do - exploring a place through its spaces - are the stories I receive in return. This was an unexpected result of putting my art out into the world. My visual stories encourage others to explore, and see, and remember, their own discoveries of a place.

 

HH: In my opinion, the stories and connections are the best thing to come out of creating and sharing art. Why do you think we are craving work like this again, work that connects us? 

RS: Are we? In this life of disconnectedness (especially in the States), I believe there is a strong urge to connect. Families are changing. Nondescript strip malls have taken over America. The concept of “belonging” constantly changes. People wander. Others ask questions. I, myself, was disconnected and rootless for over 10 years, from my late teens to late 20’s. I haven’t consciously made that connection before (of my work related to place and my disconnectedness in the past), but maybe this question will lead to the answer for me?

I believe in the beauty and simplicity of line and color. This quiet beauty is what I am trying to share with the world.

HH: And sharing that with the world helps us rest, connect, recognize, wonder... And I want to understand, because you headed to France at such a tumultuous time politically (newly elected president here and there, immigration politics and terrorism, etc.), what are the conversations like about the States there, if there are any? How do you see us represented or generalized across the pond?

RS: I’m living in a very rural area, and am not completely fluent in the language, so I’m not sure I can say much about the mood of this country towards America. These days I don’t read the news, nor do I watch TV... Although people do shake their head in disbelief if the name of our current president comes up. Otherwise, I find that the USA is still well respected, and that there is still a memory that the United States helped France immensely in WWII. 

 

HH: That's really good to hear in so many ways, as I've received emails from friends across the globe offering help and support. I like focusing on the local, on my small town and my amazingly diverse state, and doing my best. I also haven't been the best at keeping up with the news. Perhaps this is showing up in our art? I have noticed changes in your work since you were in France! Being in new spaces often brings along a shift that's usually quite strong, and often quite brave. So you're in this new place, and it's yours so you can settle in, and just... do your work. It sounds like a dream! I've watched your work shift in the exploration in and around other new spaces - from working in pencil and pastel at your Penland Residency to working HUGE at the Columbus Museum… and I'm not the only one who is noticing! This question is from your dear reader Maureen:

Maureen: My question is about the use of threads sewn onto your work. What inspired you to add that touch?

RS: Moving to France gave me the freedom to release myself from any boxes I had placed myself in, even before the move actually happened. There was something about the fact - in my head - that the people here were not familiar with my work, and that I could be free to try any method, medium, idea - there were no expectations of who I was and what my work had been in the past. The only person who had any idea of my previous work was M Wilfried Celerien, the Adjoint au Mairie of Felletin, whom I had made the original proposal for my current exhibition to - and I am happy to say he was delighted to see my new direction(s).

Thank you, Maureen, for always asking such thoughtful questions! I have been considering adding stitching to my silk paintings for quite a while but was unsure of how I would approach it, and how I could make it “different” from other artists’ work. My framed silks always have an element of stitching, as I hand stitch the silk to the mat board - but often these stitches become invisible to the eye.

When I arrived in France and was faced with a deadline to create and complete a body of art for an exhibition in a short period of time, my resources were (very) limited and I was free to experiment with new materials. I located embroidery threads with the right colors at the local recycle store. There are two layered silk paintings in the Felletin exhibit, and as I didn’t have an embroidery hoop, I had no way of keeping the fabric taut while I worked on it. I stitched through the mat board to add texture to the flowers in one design, and to highlight the wooden shutters and metal door slats on the other. It seems crazy, because it was only a few stitches, but I really could go on for hours discussing the reasons behind my actions!

And as a side note - I have always had an element of working large with my art. From my senior BFA exhibit when I had weavings, embroideries, and monoprints at a 6’x6’ size, to motion drawings I created at Penland that were 4’ x 6’, to a silk painting installation at the Ramsey Center at UGA that was 4’ x 12’ (x3). I feel comfortable working large, so working small here was also a new experiment.

The Short answer? 

I wanted to add texture and color to a simple design in a subdued way.

 

HH: So, are you afraid of anything?

RS: Rien. If I am afraid of something, I try hard to identify in and overcome it. Consciously.

 

HH: Any advice for young artists?

RS: Work hard. Never give up. Look inside and don’t forget who you are. Trust your instincts.

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HH: And what's next for you?

RS: Taking over the world. Exploring new media and pushing the boundaries of the work that I do. A museum exhibition in Mississippi in 2019. An art show in Bordeaux, France in 2017. I am always searching for opportunities, and I look forward to exhibiting again in Athens!

 

HH: What is your life’s force?

RS: 1. Perseverance furthers.   2. A sense of constant amazement at what I experience, and the fact that I am constantly amazed by the NEGATIVE SPACE shape of the sky against a building’s roofline.

HH: Any questions for us?

RS: I love feedback and stories. I’d love people to respond to this interview by writing about their experiences with my art. This helps me more than they can ever know.

 

HH: It really is such a huge part of it all, that conversation and that community. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Dear readers, please feel invited to share below any stories or inspirations. Let René and I know where you wander, or what currently inspires you.

 

 

RS: Thank you, Hope Hilton!

 

- René Shoemaker

July 17, 2017

La Creuse, France

 

 

 

How did February get to be so busy?

Do you feel as busy as I do? Not only is it the month of love, but apparently it is the month of art, too! Here is a list of the upcoming events I am participating (or teaching!) and I wanted to be sure you had the chance to add them to your calendar:
 

 

Love in All It’s Many Forms
KA Artist Shop

February 14 - March 31, 2017
Reception: Thursday, March 16th, 2017 7-9pm
127 N Jackson St. Athens, GA 30601 / Phone: 706-850-1224

 

 

Love On the Side
Creature Comforts Brewing Company

February 14 - Feb 25, 2017
Reception: Wednesday, February 15th, 2017 5-8 pm
271 W Hancock Ave. Athens, Ga 30601 / Phone: 706-410-1043

 

 

Solo Exhibition
Heirloom Cafe & Fresh Market

March through April, 2017
Reception: TBA
815 N. Chase St. Athens, Ga 30601 / Phone: 706-354-7901

 

 

Let There Be Art 2017
Invitational Art Show & Sale at Columbus Museum of Art

April 6-13, 2017
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, GA 31906

 

 

Solo Exhibition
Ville de Felletin, France

June 21 - August 19, 2017
Reception: TBA
12 place Charles-de-Gaulle 23500 Felletin, France / Phone: 05 55 66 51 11
 

 

Workshop - Silk Painting
KA Artist Shop

Saturday, March 11, 2017 1-5 PM, KA Artist Shop
127 N Jackson St. Athens, GA 30601 / Phone: 706-850-1224

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO + TO SIGN UP!

A Sense of Design: My UGA experience + new workshop

Thanks,   University of Georgia Fabric Design Department!

Thanks, University of Georgia Fabric Design Department!

I was invited to teach silk painting at the University of Georgia Fabric Design Department this week. It felt like full circle; this is where I went to school, and although they do not teach silk painting at this time, this is where I learned this technique!

I will be teaching silk painting again Saturday, September 17 in Athens. Sign up here! If you’ve been thinking about expanding your artistic skills, this class will be a great opportunity to explore ideas and learn a new craft. We can start refining your design ideas and we can also discuss possible gifts for your friends and family. 

If you’ve taken the class before, I welcome and encourage taking it again! We will work on extending your skills to try something new. When I teach at KA Artist, we explore the possibilities of using a resist line to create a “drawing” with the gutta (or wax-like substance), but you could easily create a watercolor effect without the lines, or paint on a pre-treated silk that will keep the dye from spreading, or we can explore layering designs on the silk – there are many interesting effects to try out.

The Sweetness of the Magnolia Bloom

What was your first experience with a magnolia blossom? I bet you remember it as well as I remember my first encounter:

The first time I saw a magnolia blooming I thought I must be in heaven. That amazing size along with the pure white hue, the density of the petals, and its amazing beauty made it seem immortal ... although I could see that it appeared to fade as all flowers do. This first encounter was on a wooden stair landing in an historic 1850’s house in North Georgia. The magnolia bloom was floating in a bowl of water. It was a magical evening filled with candlelight and the deep odor of magnolias and honeysuckle.

I created this new painting, titled “The Sweetness of the Magnolia Bloom”, to send to New Orleans for The Cultural Landscape Foundation auction this year, and the above text is what I wrote as my artist statement. I am delighted with this new painting and feel like it is moving my art in a new direction with its simplicity and linear quality.

As part of the process, I created a second magnolia blossom painting; see it here:

Both of the magnolia paintings are hand-painted with dye on silk broadcloth, a lovely, soft, dense, matte silk. Last year, the painting I donated, “Kennedy Road Beaver Pond, Oconee County" valued at $500, sold for $700. How cool is that! The second magnolia painting "Lavender Blooms" is now for sale in my shop HERE.

 

LET'S TALK ABOUT SUMMER!

Ahh, summer. I love to travel; I love the sound of the wheels on the pavement, the sound of airplane engines starting. I love to think that my art goes to places like Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, and Paris and represents me there. Where will you go this summer? I’d love to know.

T-SHIRTS ARE HERE!

As you travel, you can wear my Globe t-shirt so everyone can easily recognize which town you love! For those of you who live outside of Athens, I now have a contact at the Globe who will send shirts to you: Write to Norm at globeupstairs@gmail.com. The shirts sell for $15 each. 

NEW EXHIBITS + CLOSING DATES

The OCAF Members exhibit is opening this Friday, June 3, from 6-8 pm. I entered two new paintings, both scenes from the Ashford Manor in Watkinsville, Ga. I am especially happy with this painting of their kitchen:

Also, the closing dates for two of my exhibits have been extended – but hurry! 

  • And my year-long show at the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Ga will close on July 31st.

Thank you for supporting my work! And don’t forget to let me know where you are traveling this summer, so I can travel along with you.

 

Cheers,

-René

 

 

 

 

Express Yourself

Nags Head, N.C. - One source of inspiration!

Nags Head, N.C. - One source of inspiration!

Discovering Your Own Creativity

I am intrigued by the many different ways people express their creativity. Whether it be cooking, writing, woodworking, poetry, metalwork, housekeeping, landscaping - the list goes on and on, and is truly unending. There are as many forms of creativity as there are individuals!

My friend Hope Hilton teaches classes on creativity at the KAArtist shop in downtown Athens, Ga, where I am teaching a silk painting class in April. Her classes have titles like Creativity Takes Courage and Creative Journaling. Creativity can be what gets us up in the morning; it can be what sees us through our tough times, illuminating the joy in everyday experiences that might otherwise slide right by without our taking notice. Creativity for me is a never-ending source of ideas, inspiration, and fun, and Hope’s classes are amazing because she helps everyone unveil their own sources of creativity!

I am excited to join Hope in this endeavor by offering my silk painting class at KAArtist on Saturday, April 9th from 1-4 p.m. There we can work together to explore color and line and silk and beauty, and you can see what other creative opportunities Kristen Ashley (of KAArtist!) has cooked up for us.

During our time in class, we will see how others have approached painting on silk and discuss how your unique approach to life - and creativity - will help you create a stunning silk painting of your own. 

Why is expressing yourself important? I believe we all have an inner vision to share with the rest of the world. We can begin to discover that vision by expressing it through our own unique talents. Come explore with me to discover how you can share those talents!

What is your favorite creative outlet? Hit 'reply' and let me know. Let’s begin a discussion on what makes your heart sing.

 

SIGN UP TODAY!

Silk Painting with René Shoemaker
KA Artist Shop
127 N. Jackson St.
 Athens, GA
1.706.850.1224

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Peggy was very happy with her new silk painting!  Columbus State University 2015

Peggy was very happy with her new silk painting! Columbus State University 2015

René Art is now on exhibit:
Discovering the Chattahoochee Valley:
Silk paintings by René Shoemaker

The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Ga through July 2016

 

Urbino, Italy

Urbino, Italy The new owner of my sweet painting-on-silk of the piazza in Urbino, Italy, of a view looking through the town at the hillside beyond, asked me to write about the painting, and the experience that inspired it:

Urbino was a Roman town that eventually became a center of learning, sophistication, and the fine arts in the 15th Century. It is located towards the north of Italy, an hour from the Adriatic Coast. The great artist Raphael was born in Urbino; his father was court painter for Fredrico da Montefeltro (1422-1483), the Duke known for supporting the arts who lost his right eye in a tournament, and would only allow his portrait to be painted showing the left side of his face.

My daughter, Kate, studied Art History & Italian at the University of Urbino (founded in 1506!) for the academic year 2004-2005, and we visited her there during Thanksgiving-time. A few kilometers from town we stayed on a farm overlooking the beautiful rolling Italian countryside. A Giant Schnauzer named Ula lived on the farm, and she would visit us every evening, come in, and stay awhile. In Urbino, I had the best hot chocolate ever - it was dark & thick, thickened with potato starch! Besides the hot chocolate, I must say it was wonderful to be in an Italian hill town with its Renaissance Architecture and fabulous use of space. The hills were steep & the pathways winding, and there was one main street, Via Giuseppe Mazzini, that seemed to go straight up into the sky. The views revealed at the top made any climb in the area well worth the effort.