The red thread

A while ago I was going through an artistic slump, I had no direction. I felt suffocated in my job as well as my artistic practice.  Lucky for me, I decided to take a class to keep up my teaching certificate.  Who would have thought that this class would have such a direct impact on my life and the way I have created art for the past 4 years.

I met a man named Kurt Godwin.  He was a professor of painting for VCU.  He primarily taught multidisciplinary classes for art educators, but it was clear that he was truly a renaissance man.  The first meeting we had as a class was at his home.  Not many professors invite you to their house without meeting you before hand.  I knew then, that this class would be different for me.

It was exactly what I needed.  I had been going through the motions of making art, but felt stagnant in my pursuits.  Kurt helped me turn that around by talking with me weekly about where I was going, what I was doing. But not in passive or aggressive kind of way.  He wanted to get to know his students…and often he would use humor to get at that relationship.

To push people to think beyond their own ideas, or to help students get “unstuck” he said, he always said,” Why not add a little red?”  What? Most people would give him a strange look, most people would just balk at the idea.  Why red?

One day I was working– and struggling on a painting I actually despised.  I was overworking everything about it, and it seemed hopeless.  Kurt came over and said,” What about a little red line?” I looked at him, thought about it….and from there I just interpreted that red line in a variety of ways.  Was it really about the red?  What was it about this exchange that had a deeply profound effect on the work I was doing?

I think it was because of the way in which he just connected to me.  He wasn’t in charge of my painting, I was.  I could decide what fit, what to let in.  He was just offering a little suggestion of what could be.  Red, a symbolically charged color, coming from a compassionate teacher who wanted to help a struggling artist to see more than she thought of herself.

This weekend is an opening for an exhibit that honors his memory.  If you happen to be in Alexandria, please go!  I won’t be able to make it, because I am still in India.  However, one of my pieces will be there.  It is sure to be an amazing show, with people from all over the area coming to honor a man who helped me see the red thread…the connection between the artist and the work.

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