Hometown: I don’t think of anything as a hometown as I was a Navy brat.
Current town: Hammonton, NJ
Job description: Artist, Art Teacher. I teach Graphic Design, TV production and Mass Media
What are you working on?
About two years ago I took a studio at the Hammonton Arts Center. That has really helped me to produce the body of work, on which I am currently working. I called the series I am doing now “Men and Women” because that is what I have been thinking about for a lot of years; specifically the relationship between men and women. When you think about life, and the story of Adam and Eve, it is really about those relationships. They have started wars, divided families and nations. It is a dynamic relationship that can be very good or very bad. I have been married to the same man, and my best friend, for 40 years. I have counseled many of my friends, and even my own children, as they have worked through these relationships. It is no wonder this would be my subject matter. But as I contemplated my work for this interview, I realized that it is not so much a particular idea I am painting, but my thoughts in visual form. I have a hard time isolating my mind to concentrate on one thing most of the time, even as I am writing this I have a zillion thoughts fighting for dominance. But, when I paint I am lost there. I am calm. I am one with the canvas. I will sometimes paint for hours with the same song repeating over and over, so that I stay in the thought stream that started the painting. Changing music for me will often change the whole direction of a painting.
Some of my first printmaking images (the leaving series) were about the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. The imagery usually portrayed a disheartened Adam and Eve leaving together. My imagery has them split, as it seems men and women often are, with that relationship forever broken, forever struggling to come to terms with their differences, drives and the sin that lies between them.
To break from some of that rather serious subject matter, I am also painting a series of sunflowers with the same kind of interlocking pattern. And of course I am still doing printmaking too.
What’s your art background / when did you begin really focusing on art?
I have always been an artist. I think you are born that way. It is just the way you think and see. Some people call it “outside of the box.” I say, what box?
I really didn’t start focusing on art until the 1990’s. I always wanted to paint, but when I was in high school I didn’t get any art classes. So in the 90’s, while my children were growing up, I started taking painting lessons from a local painter. I always felt that my biggest difficulty was learning to draw. I always had ideas and images swirling around in my head that I wanted to paint, but knew I needed lots of instruction in the basics of art. In 1994 I went back to college as an art major. I went to Rowan University, but became very discouraged with my painting instruction so changed my concentration to printmaking. In 1998 I did a semester abroad and studied in Florence, Italy. That four months I spent in Italy really changed the way I thought about myself as an artist, my art, and life. My instructors there really helped me to find my own direction. They taught me to be true to myself and keep learning. I was also influenced by Marc Chagall who said, that an artist “Should be true to his line,” and that is something I have been trying to do since Italy. After I graduated in 1999, I continued to pursue my education and got an MA in Public Relations in 2000. When I left school, I started working and stopped producing art. After about two years, I just felt like I was dying inside. Then I read something a poet said about making art: “Don’t do it unless you will die if you don’t.” I realized that I was dying inside and knew that I had to return to producing art even if no one bought it. I started doing printmaking and painting, and showing my work. I haven’t stopped since. I quit my job, and pursued the alternate route to teaching so I would be close to art, and also to afford me more time to concentrate on art. Plus, young people keep me up to speed on what is happening in the world and the new visual things they are experiencing.
What’s been happening in your life/ what’s next for you?
In my personal life, I just celebrated my 40th wedding anniversary, have four grown children and six grandchildren. I am very excited about what is happening in my life and in the life of the town where I live. In 1995, a few like-minded artists began the Hammonton Arts Center. At that time there was no other art venue in our town. Now 16 years later, we are a designated arts district. Stockton State College’s Noyes Museum has opened a gallery here, along with a satellite campus. We have a working theater, The Eagle Theater, and there are 19 artists working in studios at the art center and other locations in our downtown area. I have one of the studios at the art center, and am planning to move into a bigger studio in March. Our community has turned into a place where people can not only view and experience the visual and performing arts, but also gives the opportunity to be part of the creative process, as there is a full venue of classes for visual and performing arts. I am excited for the opportunity to collaborate with all the other artists as we share our vision and encourage each other. In 2009 I was honored by the town of Hammonton and was named “Artist of the Year” for my work as an artist and promoter of the arts in Hammonton.
My goal now is to continue working and begin finding ways to promote my work and bring it to a public forum.
Describe your current state of mind / what’s inspiring you?
My current state of mind is rambunctious! I am excited to be producing art that pours out of my soul onto the canvas and not worrying what anyone else thinks. I have some artist friends that I trust to look at my work and critique it. Their advice and encouragement has given me courage to pursue my vision.
Any exhibits coming up/ past exhibits you’d like to mention?
Last June I displayed the whole Men/Women series at Casiano Coffee Bar and Sweetery and my work was really well received. It was my first solo show, and I was nervous as my work is really non-representational. Over the last year I have been entering juried shows and have been pleased with a couple of first place awards, and many honorable mentions. In the last five years, I was accepted to a show at the Atlantic City Airport sponsored by the Noyes Museum and my work was also accepted into a show at the Noyes Museum featuring Hammonton Artists.
Right now I have three of my pieces displayed at the Hammonton Arts Center’s “Heart of the Artist Exhibit.” My painting “Everlasting Love” won an honorable mention. I will be entering three pieces in the Art Center’s annual juried “Women in the Arts” show which takes place from February 26 to April 3. This is usually a big show with a lot of women artists from the south jersey area submitting work. We have a luncheon that day and it is a great time to network and learn from other women in the arts.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?
My challenge is the same as it has always been: to continue to learn, keep working, be true to my vision, and not think about what someone will want to see, but what I want to create.
Has the meaning of your work changed over time?
My work has changed visually, but I am still motivated by my heart. I think the meaning of an artist’s work has to change over time because artists are always changing.
Are you involved with any organizations/ do you collaborate with other artists?
I am very involved with the Hammonton Arts Center, the Eagle Theater, and am a member of the Art Educators of New Jersey, and the Printmaking Center of New Jersey. I collaborate with other artists through community projects, and occasionally like to participate in productions at the Eagle Theater. Last month I performed in the Vagina Monologues at the Eagle Theater in Hammonton, NJ. It was my fourth year participating in the production.
What are you listening to these days?
I love to listen to Patti Smith when I paint, but I really love a variety of music. I usually listen to WXPN in my studio.
What are a few of your favorite spots in your area?
I love sitting at Casciano Coffee Bar and Sweetery (it is right across from my studio) when I need to take a painting break. It is especially great on days when we can sit outside. My coffee buddies and I enjoy spotting illegal U-Turns! I also love the beach and just driving in the south Jersey Countryside, or driving down to Fortescue to look for sea glass.
What is your ideal job?
My ideal job would be to paint and sell my work.
Favorite artists and why/ people in your field whom you most admire:
I love Kandinsky and Chagall because I feel a spiritual connection with their work. Since I started out as a writer I think my work has a very literary connection. I like Kandinsky’s connection to music and I feel Chagall is a story teller through his imagery.
What are you reading?
I am reading Kandinsky’s “The Spiritual in Art.” I had started it some years ago, and just didn’t get into it, but now I am enjoying it and feel a real connection to what he is talking about. “I value only those artists,” Kandinsky stated, “who really are artists, that is, who consciously or unconsciously, in an entirely original form, embody the expression of their inner life; who work only for this end and cannot work otherwise.”
Favorite authors, fiction:
I think my favorite fiction author is Christopher Moore. I just find his books so clever and entertaining. His latest book “Sacré Bleu” is all about art and where inspiration might come from, and it just made me want to paint more! I enjoy a fast read by James Paterson or Jennifer Weiner on the beach, but I also love more in depth fiction like “In the Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Azflon.
Your website(s): http://www.mcdemarco.com