When or where do you tend to find the most inspiration to create?
Mandy Rogers Horton: Thankfully, inspiration comes in many forms and from many sources including other artists & artworks, my family and daily life, teaching, the news, and more. Though my time is stretched between several different endeavors, if I can remain open and receptive, inspiration can come at any time or place. Some ideas arise in an overpowering instant and others seep in and attach themselves over time. Recently, I have been very interested in the notable amount and various states of deconstruction, demolition, reconstruction, and new construction going on throughout Nashville. Visually and socially, these developments are fascinating. In extreme contrast, the dire and complex plight of refugees worldwide draws my attention and sympathy. Contemplating extremes like these motivates much of my work which is often an attempt to understand the human experience, the ways we construct our internal and external worlds.
Jodi Hays: I tend to believe Chuck Close, when he said “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just get to work”.
That having been said, I will stop for construction sites, thrift stores, a Sunday NY Times, a good podcast, Bruce Springstein Nebraska (lately)...list could go on. Then you add in reading current and historical discourse on painting.
Seeing as how both of you are mothers with young children at home, how have you found balance between work life and family life?
M: I have always balanced teaching with art making and perhaps that was good practice for the addition of motherhood into the mix. While I can gather inspiration & ideas anytime and place, the physical process of art making requires a more specific situation. Parenthood has required me to use my time more efficiently and to break the process into various components--some of which can be done with my kids and other more engrossing tasks that require my undivided attention and quasi-quarantine. I gratefully rely on my husband and parents who live nearby for help with the children during those consuming periods of making. Although there are times that the tension of balancing teaching, art making, and parenthood are frustrating, in truth I know that each of these have enriched my life and benefitted each other in innumerable ways. Parenthood has made me a better artist, art has made me a better person and mother.
J: Since having a family I have learned to focus my time in ways I never had to without children (though I have always had a pretty healthy relationship to discipline and “showing up” in the studio). These kind of priority shifts happen with age, whether kids are in the picture or not. My working hours differ than some of my non-parent artist friends’ schedules. I quit my job as a full time Curator and Faculty at a University here in town so I could focus the time I did have to studio work.
Then there are tools and friends who lend support; this year I read the book Essentialism, which gets at living with focus and intentionality, a Creative Capital workshop that encouraged a time audit (terribly useful) and working artist trades for childcare. Children have also opened up a new ambition in me to leave them a legacy, let alone opening up a whole new color palette (neon, clashing, pattern).
What is it like being a professional artist living and working in Nashville, TN right now? (considering how much the city is growing and becoming more of a hotspot for creatives)
M: It is hard to believe that I have lived in Nashville for twelve years now, long enough to take in some of the changes that are shaping the city. Though there may be a degree of nostalgia for some aspects of the old, the new developments in the city are exciting. The range of galleries, art venues, and events are adding to the dynamic conversation and an art scene of engaged artists & viewers alike.
J: I am a painter, not necessarily a “creative”. So, in terms of being a painter, there have always been a small but ambitious (and refreshingly ego-less) group of artists/painters here in Nashville. In the past few years, there seems to be a tipping point with artists choosing Nashville through the lens of “it city”, which can change in ways the nature of community (in some ways for the better, some worse). Though Nashville is a great place to make work (comparatively affordable cost of living and studio rents), it remains to be “it” for painters until there are a few things in place (MFA programs to grow a critical community, and a collecting arm/institution, to name only two).
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
M: That is difficult because I feel indebted to so many teachers, artists, authors, and friends for their advice or examples ranging from the practical ( “Grow up and clean your palette!”) to the mindful (“Wait three days before acting on any advice or criticism”). I very often remember the phrase “This too shall pass” which applies to all of life including motherhood and art making. In the bad times, just hold on because this too shall pass; in the beautiful times, be grateful because this too shall pass.
J: Don’t complain (someone is always busier, poorer and more tired than you are). Do not envy another’s station.
If you could describe your current work being shown at The Arts Company in one word, what would it be?