This is the second in a series of interviews with the artists I’ve chosen for the exhibition, Balancing Acts, that will be taking place at Twiggs Gallery in Boscawen, NH, July 30 through September 2, 2016. I hope you will join all of us at the opening reception on August 4 from 5 – 7 pm.
Soosen and I live near each other, so this is a composite of several conversations that we’ve had in her studio, in the car on our way to exhibitions, and in my studio. We’ve been talking about the artist’s life and how it means constant juggling of time and energy. I wanted to know what her strategies for living an artist’s life were, especially the struggle with health issues. We covered the daily routine, her process for finding content and the struggle to get back into the studio after falling ill with Hashimoto’s disease.
Do you get into the studio about the same time every day?
No, well, sometimes I go in in the morning and look around and think about what I’ll work on and set something aside. Then I go back to the house and have breakfast or maybe do the computer stuff: email, show submissions, requests. Then I’ll go in later.
How do you balance all that marketing, networking, social media time—Does it cut into your studio time?
I struggle with the balance of trying to keep it all even. Often I spend too much time on the marketing–podcasts, webinars, etc. But! When I do get into the studio I’m extremely productive. I’m focused and do a big chunk at once and then sit with it for a while.
So you have the idea first and that draws you into the studio?
Yes, often the idea will come from an entry in my journals, and I’ll start to work with it. I might work with it in one media, printmaking, say, then switch over to collage, and find another way to look at it. The fact that I do several different processes–printmaking, encaustic, assemblage– helps me figure out the best way to turn to get a particular effect.
Do you incorporate exercise into your daily routine?
My daily walk is a big piece of my balancing. It’s my mediation time rather than exercise. I walk slowly because my eyes are really open to what I’m seeing—I’m looking for my daily Instagram picture—and I still have my creative brain on. I’m looking for the close-up, the detail, the visual balance in what I’m seeing out there. When I come back to the studio I don’t necessarily work on a flower that I took a picture of, but it’s still all working in me, the looking close, the detail, and it’s a similar aesthetic between the looking and the art-making.
How has the struggle to find out about your autoimmune disease affect your day-to-day art practice?
For many months I couldn’t create anything. I couldn’t get into the studio. I could barely get off the couch. I spent a lot of time researching, learning about different treatments, protocols, and symptoms. I was just taking in information, it was a kind of dumping of information into my brain. But, then, I had to make a piece for the Beneath The Surface show. The idea that I had, once I was in the studio again, didn’t come together the way I had envisioned it, but all the research was still on my mind, so that’s the direction the piece took (Constellation of Symptoms). I actually felt a little better mentally, having created something. When you don’t get into your studio you get irritable.
You’ve retired from your full-time job. How has that affected your studio time?
When I left my graphic design career design behind, I was at first unhappy, thinking I’m not going to have a job! But it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It freed my time up to pursue getting my name out there, entering shows, and getting my website together. I took a class, called the Artists Professional Toolbox in 2010 that was a big turning point. It was all about the business of being an artist and it changed my whole thinking about how to be a full-time artist. It is a business and you have to promote yourself. You’ve got to put yourself out there and network.
Visit Balancing Acts at Twiggs Gallery, July 30 – September 2, 2016, to see all of Dunholter’s works. The opening reception will be August 4, from 5 – 7 pm. Visit her website at soosendunholterfineart.com.