One of the delightful parts of curating this exhibition was discovering how many artists contemplate this idea of balance in our work and in our lives. I had some questions for Pamala Crabb, an artist living in Maine, who works with wax and encaustic in paintings, prints, and sculpture. Her two sculptures in this show, This Left and This Right caught my eye as a metaphor for stacking all the parts of our lives, one atop the other, struggling to maintain that precarious balance. Crabb’s towers of seemingly heavy stones also play with our senses; we’re sure they will topple at any moment!
From her artist statement for this exhibition:
I have always found equanimity with the sea. I have always collected what the sea has left behind. As an artist I have always been searching for the right balance of work and creativity. A year after some very bad hurricanes elsewhere I happened upon hundreds of small pieces of wood a washed on the Atlantic Beach in Wells, Maine. They were worn down and resembled stones on the beach. They appeared to be from construction debris that had found its way to the sea and eventually the shores of Maine. Perhaps from a bad hurricane that had occurred. I saw the wood stones as a symbol of the balance of life lived fully even though we will experience the tragedy of loss. Of course I spent the day collecting them and drying them out. In the end I created some cairns from the small pieces of wood I had turned into small stones of many colors. This Left and That Right refer to the many paths you end up taking in life purposefully or unexpectedly. The harmony you find in navigating these paths to create an existence. It also reflects the loss of balance and ultimately markers in remembrance.
Can you say more about the ‘right balance of work and creativity”?
As I recall I was always drawing or painting. The imbalance is when I find I have no time to devote to my artwork. I’m balanced and at peace when I am producing my work.
What strategies do you use to balance the content and the medium?
My content is most important to me. I work in many mediums. My voice is in the work and that is what drives me ahead. I want my art voice to make the planet a better place. It’s not about me. It’s about my message.
Why and how is remembrance important in your work?
It’s more like documenting what we have and what we are losing, as well as acknowledging what we already have lost.
The idea of “the wood stones as a symbol of the balance of life lived fully even though we will experience the tragedy of loss” is a weighty one and intriguing. How have you balanced life and loss?
I have a personal understanding that loss is an inevitable part of life, but I find I don’t get mired in depression at the loss of anyone or anything. I keep moving forward. As I age I feel a stronger urgency to keep moving forward and spreading my message. Time is not always on your side.
What role does the ocean debris as “human tracks” or traces play in your work?
The ocean debris, our human tracks, plays an important role in my message to make change and bring about the health of the oceans. To effect a change people must first realize we have a problem. I became aware of the troubles with the seas as I saw more plastics on the beach and in the water as time went by. When I was a young adult in the 70s I demonstrated, to try and save bird life and wildlife populations, against Monsanto’s pouring pesticides into our environment. As I grew older I saw even more plastics in the oceans. Living on an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy for seven years, I saw medical waste and pre-production plastic beads as well as plastics in the ocean and on the beaches. I could see the sea bed was empty of life in many of these areas.
What are you juggling to make an artist’s life?
I have a strong commitment to family. I spend my free time with my grandchildren of which I have three, with another on the way.
How have you fit in studio time into your family schedule?
I work in my studio every day in Spring, Winter, and Fall. Summers are filled with exhibitions and grandchildren. My grandkids look forward to summers in Maine and time in the studio that I create for them.
What other activities are important to you to feel like a balanced person?
I try to attend a workshop every year to enjoy that bonding experience and learn new techniques. It keeps my mind fresh with ideas. I also enjoy travel here and abroad.
Do you have your studio set up to be open to visitors? How often is your studio open to the public?
I have a studio that I work in. Occasionally, the press has visited my studio with cameras as well as the occasional guest. I prefer to keep my studio private, so I also have a small gallery that allows me to show work to potential clients and gallery owners.
My studio is simply a wonderful disaster filled with my experiments and projects. I have it set up in different sections for working with wax and others for painting and photography, with sculptures being built somewhere in the middle.
How much of your art-time is spent making art versus prepping/presenting/marketing your art? How do you schedule your daily hours?
I spend my winters in the studio building up my new series of works. Much time is spent on computer research for my projects. As I have evolved as an artist, I enjoy creating and promoting my own projects. I like the direction I am going and I feel as if I have more control over my career as an artist.
My schedule as an artist is very flexible. I am fortunate to have fantastic support system that allows for me to be completely devoted to my mission. It was not so in the beginning with my family being first and with my career as a contract interior designer.
How has social media affected your balance in regards to networking, the time used, or the distraction from art-making?
I keep up my website on a regular basis. As well as using the internet for much of my research for my projects.
As an artist I am very private. I don’t care to share my thoughts of my own work. I prefer to have people form their own attachments to my work without undue influence. I want my work to make a difference. For me, perfection comes from that moment the viewer locks eyes on my piece of work and commits to it forever.
See more of Crabb’s work at pamalacrabb.com
Balancing Acts is on view until September 4, 2016
Artist’s reception: Thursday, August 4 from 5-7 pm
Mon-Wed: By Appointment or by chance…