Symposium Issue 

October 2000

      
 
 

 

   
 

An Interview with
 Linda Spencer

 
     

 

      

      

 

by Alex Pepple

 

 


 

    
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     Art Show

                              
 

 

         


   
 
          I have been an artist all my life. I have to create. In the course of my education I realized that art is more than a fun hobby ó is actually a tension reliever, a great centering device, a wonderful healing modality that can speak to me years after it is created.
          My book, Heal Abuse and Trauma Through Art: Increasing Self-worth, Healing of Initial Wounds, and Creating a Sense of Connectivity, is the result of doctoral research that explores the connection between the expression of creativity and one's physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
          I paint in two distinct styles. The first is a series of large (4' x 4') oils, encaustic or acrylic paintings. They are bold and colorful and are always an active reflection of life. 
My second painting style is Mixed Media Collage that incorporates "Encaustic monoprints" with Asian papers. I embellish them with bark and dried plants and flowers.
          I have been in the business world for many years and you can find me listed in Who's Who of Professional & Business Women, Who's Who International, Who's Who of Intellectuals, and 2000 Notable American Women. I am currently the President of the Los Gatos Art Association, Program Chair of the Mountain Art Guild, a Member of the Saratoga Contemporary Artists, Palo Alto Art League, American Pen Women, and Toastmasters International. 
 


 
Alex
: We have so far featured national and international artists and it is our pleasure to have you as our first local Featured Artist ó not that you donít have national and international presence, but that you live right here in Silicon Valley. Did you grow up and go to school in the area?

Linda:  No, Iíve been in this area since 1971. I was born and raised in New York 

Alex:  You have a PhD ó learned by any standard. I do believe there is an artistic component to almost everything we do, but how much of your study and research would you characterize as art, and how much as something else?

Linda:  My PhD is in Transpersonal Psychology and I have also a certificate in Creative Expression at both the masters and doctoral level. I can teach in any college or university with these degrees. At this point in my life I am enjoying my art career while I counsel a few people and teach a few others. I am trying to focus on bringing awareness to artists ó that they can allow their art to be their work. So many artists keep the thing they love to do separate from the thing they do for a living. I believe for a happy, healthy, joyous life we should get paid to do what we love to do.

Alex: What would you consider state of the arts in art today, and is that the consensus opinion of other artists?

Linda:  We are quickly moving into a new field of art, that is: computer generated graphics and fine art. Photography also will never be the same. Now one can scan a familiar image and via Photoshop or other graphic program, we can take that image and distort, change colors, merge and otherwise manipulate the image. We can combine images. A friend of mine is creating a line of taro cards on the computer. Some have taken over 60 hours for one card. Another friend is a wonderful Webmaster. She can do amazing art related things on the computer. One evening she sent me an email that said, ďOpen when you are alone.Ē I thought that was odd so I opened it and was amazed and shocked to find my face on someone elseís body. She did it as a joke on me.

Alex: Living in Silicon Valley, you must be exposed to a wealth of digital technology. How has digital technology changed art, if at all? 

Linda:  A digital image was given a first place in photography last year at the Los Gatos museum show of the Los Gatos Art Association. We were all amazed. Since then, weíve seen a lot more mixed media work being displayed. Digital imagery has opened up a huge door and we havenít seen the half of it yet. 

Alex:  Do you use digital techniques of image alteration in your work? 

Linda:  I am inspired by them and they have altered my perception of good design. I think my work, which lends itself to heavy design work, has been influenced by the interesting ways that young computer artists have entered the field with a sort of a go for it attitude. I love the new energy that is emerging. Itís not out with the old, in with the new, but a merging of whatís best from the old with the new.

Alex: Traditionally, we have had to go to art galleries to view artwork. However, the Internet is now becoming a vast repository of artwork. Although it will never rival the one-with-the-artwork feeling of a gallery, there is the high availability and cost-effectiveness factor. How has the Internet been useful to you as an artist?

Linda:  It has allowed me to connect with the world rather than the area. Iíve sold some paintings over the net; and when I travel, which I do a lot, I can say in response to ďWhat do you do?Ē ó I am an artist, would you like to see some of my work? Go to www.spencerarts.com and Iíll explain some of it to you as we view it. Theyíve loved that and it sure makes it easier for me than sending photos around the world. Itís also spurred me to put my line of Uppity Womenís Clothing online: For a spoof on university pompousness I created a line of clothing called The International Society of Uppity Women. I sell T-shirts, nightshirts, totes, aprons, dresses etc., all online. Any item comes with a frameable certificate that entitles the bearer to be called a Certified Uppity Woman. Itís a hoot. Iíve sold a lot of those online.

Alex: How popular are galleries today when art is everywhere on the Internet?

Linda:  More popular than ever. Itís like when video came out ó it just created more awareness for films. The Internet is creating more awareness of art in general and people want originals rather than prints because the originals are the ones that carry the energy of the artist. A good original piece of art speaks to a person for years to come. A copy/print is flat.

Alex: How easy is it for an artist, you in particular, to get their work exhibited in a gallery? 

Linda:  Itís just a matter of taking work to a gallery and letting the owner see it. If there is a match with the type of art they like to display and the personalities are compatible then it gets in. If not, it doesnít. I show my art locally in Gallery Saratoga, in Florida at Timothy Gallery in Winter Park, and the Artistís Hand in Oviedo. 

Alex:   How popular is art today in terms of appreciation, sales in galleries, and your personal experience getting your artwork appreciated or sold? Also, your recent work has focused on encaustic and collage. Tell us a little about these ó what is exciting about these media?

Linda:  When I graduated from ITP in 1995 I began doing artwork seriously. I floundered a couple of years trying to find my style, trying different techniques, medias, sizes, and all that. I love encaustic art, which is pure beeswax, resin and pure pigment mixed together. It is heated and applied hot and it dries ó ďsetsĒ ó almost instantly. It is a medium that lends itself to brushes, hot irons, palette knives, pouring, heat guns, blowtorches, etc. The way you can work with this medium is never ending. You can work on masonite, MDO board, mat board, just about any porous surface. All it needs is a rigid support so it doesnít bend and crack the wax. The finishes are even diverse. If you leave the wax in the state it is applied, it gives a matt finish; if you buff it, you can get enamel like finish. You can also stick stuff in it or use it to do collage. I spent three years exploring all the ways to make art with this medium. I love it, but about a year ago I found that the wax smoke was hurting my lungs so I stopped using it for a while to give myself a break. That is when I fell in love with making collages out of imported Asian papers. Well one thing led to another and every one loved the new collages. They sold well wherever I put them, and I started using the scraps for making cards. The cards sold even better than the collages so I continued. I love making the cards because it sharpens my design eye. When you do art in a repetitive fashion it begins to evolve right in front of your eyes. It went from just using the Asian papers to including pressed flowers in the cards, then feathers, then stock market paper. Then a friend saw the cards and brought me a huge book of newspapers from 1925. They are a joy. While making the cards I can read about Hooverís first chat on the new invention, ďThe radioĒ! Also, all the old cars like The Stutz are in there, as are the fashions of the day. Itís really incredible. Now Iím putting angels in the cards with fairy dust, itís amazing. And words from the tabloids are fun, and Iíve even put psychological sayings on some of them, sort of self help stuff. I guess Iíd have to say that Iíve found my art niche with the collaged, one-of-a-kind art cards.

Alex: I have an artist friend who decries art awareness in the US. She has lived in Europe and is of the opinion that art is highly appreciated there, and that in general, the average American doesnít care as much about it. What is your own impression?

Linda:  My impression of people that say this is that they are referring to the ďold idea of artĒ. They mean Rembrandt and Picasso and Matisse. They donít even notice all the new art around them. They donít ďcountĒ the new art as art and therefore they discount it. Iíd say these comments are from the era of the dinosaur.

Alex: I know that youíre a strong believer in the healing power of art and that you have written a book on this topic. Can you tell us a little about this and about the book ó how it came to be?

Linda:  The book is called, Healing Abuse and Trauma through Art, Increasing Self-Worth, Healing of Initial Wounds, and Creating a Sense of Connectivity. The publisher is Chas. C. Thomas, out of Springfield, Ill. It can be purchased via Amazon.com; it comes in paper copy and hard copy. The hard copy goes mostly to libraries and schools. I think they still carry it in the San Jose State University bookstore, if not, theyíll order it. It was the result of my doctoral research. I wanted to show people how art can be a tool toward personal growth and a good way to overcome life events that were painful. I gathered 10 people, all of whom were self identified as artists and who had been traumatized. I made sure there were 10 different types of trauma. The most interesting thing that happened when I wanted to find my subjects is that I merely put out the word that I was looking to interview people who were artists and who had trauma. The next ten phone calls where from my subjects. It was uncanny, not one had the same trauma as another. I couldnít believe it. I imagined Iíd get a lot of women with child abuse, sexual abuse etc. Especially coming from the type of school I was going to. But thatís not how it happened.
          I got a woman who lost a son in a car accident, another was a man with  severe arthritis whoíd lost his wife to cancer and left him to raise five kids. Another whose father died and she had a mentally ill mother to raise her, another was married to an alcoholic, one was sexually abused, one mentally abused, one physically abused as a child, one was born without an ear and had to have one reconstructed, one had so many illnesses I canít list them here ó they began in her youth with spinal scoliosis, and one was asthmatic.
          Anyway, you get the drift. Each person told me their story then told me how art played a part in their lives. When the research was all compiled and sorted, which took months, a pattern developed that was extremely interesting. Itís all in the book. It has to do with tension and how it affects the realistic artists differently than the abstract artists. It has to do with what effects the actual act of painting has on each person, how the healing actually happens, what altered states are present when the artist moves out of this dimension into the world of the artist where time and space stand still. One artist would paint for eight hours at a time and only realize that much time had passed when she realized she was very hungry. During the painting time all her pain would disappear. The minute she came back to consciousness it would all return.

Alex:  So, how does art heal?

Linda:  Artís power to evoke emotion reveals artís healing properties. Bringing forth our images ó regardless of their ability to unnerve us ó and trusting that the process will allow us to transcend the mundane visually connects us with our inner core, a place of wholeness that remains intact. Furthermore, any person can reap the benefits of art; the content or quality of the product is secondary to the feelings and insights obtained through the processes of self-expression or through visual observations. Art is a natural process for learning transformational thinking. The artist begins with some medium and creates something. As the artist works the image, he or she transforms it by adding to it or subtracting from it. Artistic expression is a way of taming the impulsive drives and promoting the development of higher ego functions. Expressing feelings onto paper, canvas or clay vents feelings symbolically and negates the necessity to act out hostile emotions; the symbol gives conscious expression to unconscious mental content. Also, art therapy is an effective treatment modality because falsification is difficult. Subject matter an artist may have difficulty confronting often appears in their artwork disguised in symbolic form. For instance, in my book I recount the story of how one of the artists used her artwork to confront childhood sexual abuse issues. When she began the art process her symbolism was disguised. Now it is blatant! As her acceptance of the past grows, the need for disguised symbolism diminished. Art therapy can also be less frightening than talk therapy.

Alex: Do you use surrealist elements in your work or do prefer realism?

Linda:  Surrealism more than realism but Iíd say my art is postmodern expressionism more than either of the above choices. What I do is paint symbolism into the work. It always speaks to me in symbols. It always means something. For instance a new piece that we are showing here tonight is the result of a group idea. I belong to a group of women called Women on the Edge. We decided it may be fun to each bring an item, and then one by one weíd take the items all home so each of us would have a chance to paint/create a piece from all 6 of these items. I made a couple of drawings from the items and then fixed my mind on one and created it. It wasnít till it was done that I realized what it was saying to me. I live in a lovely home with a view of the Monterey Bay. Sometimes this high maintenance home annoys me because instead of going to the theatre or the art shows we stay home to fix or clean the garden. My husband is a wonderful man but he likes to be the ruler of the house and heís possessive about where things go etc. Anyway, back to the work. After it was almost finished I put it back about 10 foot and took a look to see how it was going, and I got this huge wave of recognition of my life. There I was the bird, feeling trapped in this beautiful cage screaming and complaining my head off to the lion (my husband) who just lays there looking at me rant and rave. Boy is that ever my life. I brought this piece for this interview to show you what I mean about symbolic art: art that speaks to oneís life and oneís situation. I call this piece ďBird in a Gilded Cage.Ē

Alex: What are your study subjects? How do you get inspired to draw something ó from idea to choosing the medium to the finished piece?

Linda:  I start with an empty canvass and put a few lines on it. Then I let the painting lead me. I donít try to manipulate the results. I go with the flow. In my research for my doctorate I wrote a book about the two types of artists, the realistic artists and the abstract artists. Although I can do either I get a lot more pleasure from the expressionistic rather than the realistic. For me, if it already exists, whatís the point of painting it? I like to create things that donít exist at all yet. Then there is something new added to the world.

Alex:  Do you draw personal portraits?

Linda:  I have done in the past, I call that my other life. I did a nice one of my husband and his comment was, ďBoy thatís good, I love that you gave me a little more hair. Ha.Ē

Alex: Youíre been doing greeting cards lately. Can you tell us about the art and commercial aspects of this work?

Linda:  Well, Iíve still to determine the commercial aspects of doing cards. I started doing them to use up old scraps of paper. Now Iím spending hundreds of dollars on papers, glues, ornaments, etc for the cards. They are labor intensive, and I donít think Iíd like to do them full time on a permanent basis. On the other hand Iíve recently hired a young woman to do some of the gluing after I lay out the design. Iíve been about to double my production by doing this. Itís been a pleasure to do and I still enjoy it. Since my living doesnít depend on my art, I can do this, but if my living depended completely on my cards, Iíd have to think about doing a printing of some of my favorites and then retailing them at a cheaper price in bulk to a distributor.

Alex: What new trends do you expect to see in contemporary art in the near future?

Linda:  Bigger, more 3D, bolder ó many more businesses are using metal artwork outside their locations. Art has become an integral part of architectural design. There is a percentage allocated to art in the cost of a building now.

Alex: Do you have any concluding remarks about something important I left out, your current projects or exhibits?

Linda:  I think your questions were well thought out and wonderful to respond to, and I am very impressed with this line of questioning. I am currently exhibiting locally at Gallery Saratoga. I have collages in there now and of course my cards. In the Orlando Florida area one can see my cards in Winter Park at Timothy Gallery, and in Oviedo, Florida on Hwy 434 (Alafaya Trail) at the Artistís Hand. My studio is open for appointments. Call 408-353-2167 and leave a message. When I take a break from work Iíll get back to you.

Alex:  It is my pleasure to have you as Able Muse Featured Artist, Linda, our first local artist, and our first ever Featured Artist interview. Your answers have been enlightening and educational. Thank you.

Linda:  Thanks.
 

 

 

        

 

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