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Afterword: MFA

Here she is in her long 1986 interview with her friend Ian Lumsden of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery: The transcription is mine.

It was a heavy programme, heavy on the academic side, because the University of Minnesota was experimenting with the programme and they weren’t quite sure that the studio programme was warranted for a graduate degree. We had a lot… we had to write a written thesis, we had to have a language, a foreign language, and we had to have a minor….

It was in the mid-Fifties and everything was in such turmoil, Abstract Expressionism and everything was expression, no discipline, so how do you teach that? I think I had some pretty good teachers who managed to bridge that problem pretty well….

I worked all the time, day and night….

I did some sculptures, most of which is destroyed now.

Zen had made its first impact, I think, at that point on the Western culture… I got involved myself in a different way, more literary, I wrote a review of Alan Watts’ book, stuff like that.

I liked the idea of… I sort of thought I could relate it to the kind of practical Christianity that I was trapped by or involved with or something. Its basic principle is that you lose yourself, you have to lose yourself, to go beyond yourself, to transcend yourself….

You get outside your ego, and that was very attractive to me. I really was happy to find it in other cultures and other religious structures than Christianity.

This other girl [Carol Lind Geary] was a very close friend of mine, we fiddled around with brush work…. She carried it further than me. She was more intense than I was, she would stay up three nights in a row, three days in a row….

In the 1985 interview with the lawyer and photographer Cheryl Lean, she says:

I never felt that I had any trouble because I was a woman, not in the art world anyway.

In the world of chemistry I might have had more difficulty. Just staying out of the clutches of the other technicians in the lab was in those days a challenge [laughing], but I think in the commercial world then, in the business world, it might have been a bit more difficult.

I don’t think that in the art world I had those problems. I think there was a lot of support and interest, curiosity. I liked my teachers and my teachers liked me, and I never had to get involved in any hanky-panky with them either, and we just got along very well.

Maybe I was lucky, I had really good relationships. And I think that my female colleagues, my girl friends in the graduate school, felt the same way.

Here, too, are some excerpts from an e-mail that I elicited from the artist Carol Lind Geary last year (2001).

Your request for more memories of Carol HF brings up mixed emotions in me. I don’t dwell on the past at all….

I went into the MFA program because I didn’t know anything else to do, and I was accepted and I could live off the teaching assistantship. But I was at odds with the academic requirements.

Van Gogh was my role model. I wanted to “do” him, but stay sane.

That’s probably where Carol came in.

I don’t remember when I first became aware of her or how we became friends. As an undergrad, she was a teaching assistant, a grad, and ahead of me.

We probably met in Malcolm Myers print classes, which was the closest thing to a community studio in the art dept. Most of the art rooms were multi-purpose. Each class happened and cleared out for another class. But you could always work in Malcolm’s area.

And Malcolm was working there too. So I suppose it was the closest thing to a master/apprentices situation, where we all learned from each other and interacted.

As grad students, we each had our own small studio in the temporary building behind Jones Hall. Carol’s was next door to mine. That’s where the real back and forth exchanges happened….

That fall (1957) was the year of Jack Tworkov. I can’t remember if Carol was involved, but she might have been the TA. But we had a seminar where he taught us how to ask what the artist was trying to do.

This opened my mind more than anything so far. I began to realize two ways I differed from most. For one, content was always more important than form for me. And that was out of vogue with the current trends.

That is probably the main thing I shared with Carol. We had very similar goals.

Subsequently she wrote in another e-mail (more unsought corroboration):

You asked for more CHF memories. I got one. It was a little silly, maybe, not the most profound aspect, but one that struck me.

You know how we usually dressed as painters. In old clothes often with paint on them. One day Carol appeared in some sort of dress. Not looking like a business person. But not looking like an “artist”.

She wasn’t really defiant. But just determined that people on the business side of the art world take her seriously. She felt she needed to break down their stereotypes about crazy artists. Like she was an artist. And she was OK.

I’m not sure I’ve got this right. I’m not sure that I didn’t do the same thing. But I didn’t have the intensity and thought about it that she did. Her explanation got my attention.

My memory of her attitude was something like this, “I’ll be darned if I’ll let those people look down on me because I’m an artist.”


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