Today, my husband surprised me with a day trip to the Cincinnati Art Museum, where I hadn’t been since finishing grad school in 2010. We had a great time checking out the permanent collections and had lunch at a brewery nearby. It was also perfect timing, since I had already written this blog post and was just waiting to get some pictures to go with it.
I started writing because I can’t draw. As a child, I would dream up different people and settings and could just never make the picture I created match the reality. I still can’t draw. My poorly rendered cartoon T-Rex has become some kind of iconic image at work. If you followed me on Instagram back in the day, before toiles_to_the_wall, I was theprofiletrex.
With such poor artistic skills, I took to describing what I wanted to show in words instead. It was a lot easier for me to find the right words than it was to shade a drawing properly. I still love visual art, of course. I got my MA from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning. Mostly, I channel this impulse toward the visual into redecorating my house. Although grad school introduced me to a lot of wonderful artwork and helped me grow as a scholar/writer, it burned me out, too. Grad school has a way of doing that to people.
I finished my graduate degree in 2010 and honestly just left art behind. I worked in an arts center for a while, but I didn’t personally have a lot to do with the actual art or artist side of things. It was only within the last maybe three years that my passion for viewing visual art really resurfaced. (The moral here is grad school will crush your enthusiasm.)
Although I can’t make art and went through a period where I didn’t want much to do with it, visual art has been very inspiring to me as a writer. Here are a couple of artists that I consider chief influences. This isn’t necessarily a ‘favorites’ list, although I highly recommend checking all of these artists out!
My first internship in grad school was in the Education department at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. This was probably one of my favorite experiences ever. A Tara Donovan show was on view when I first started, along with Uekawa’s work. Uekawa moved from Japan to the U.S. to complete her education, and her work deals with themes of alienation from that experience. Having just moved to a new area, I was very drawn to work that spoke of feeling like an outsider and have always gone back to these pieces.
Kandinsky was heavily influenced by music, and I’ve really been inspired by the way he managed to create visual artwork by drawing inspiration from an entirely different medium.
His work is such a mood. I go back to Giacometti when I’m trying to really depict the essence of an atmosphere.
Edgar Allen Poe drew upon Fuseli’s The Nightmare to create his short story ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ which is the piece of writing that has influenced me the most, aside from T.S. Eliot’s poetry.
I hesitated to include her, but I did do my thesis on her. I think her life is the inspiring thing, not necessarily her work, although her work is amazing. She left the art world after having her daughter and created work mostly for herself. This is somewhat how I approached writing the series – it was initially just for me. Like Bontecou, I ended up sharing my work, but we both created a large body of work just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
An obvious one that needs no explanation!