“Dear Diary, I feel very hopeful today…”
One of my favorite (and most honest) editors warned me to avoid making my columns sound like diary entries. But sometimes the subject of an assignment creates a sincere emotional moment for a writer, and it’s nearly impossible to eschew the personal response. Of course, there’s a little leeway when writing about art as there’s often a blurry area between creation and creator; and in the case of our newest exhibit at the Gallery Location, “My Way” by Kendra Carter, there’s a lot to love in the artwork, of course, but the path leading to it is a story that, in modern parlance, gave me all the feels.
Kendra works primarily in acrylic to which she adds a pourable medium to create Fluid Art – you’ll know it when you see it in her exhibit. But the idea of flow was a pervasive element in my conversation with Kendra both in terms of her current output as well as a part of what led her to this period of creativity.
“I’m sure you’ve heard of art therapy?” She asks. “It’s definitely been a help to me. The work gives me a sense of peace and clarity, and it quiets my mind. I’m a worrier. I’m the kind of person who lays in bed and worries about when my 11-year-old starts driving.”
But finding her way to this outlet didn’t begin with a happy moment. On the contrary, she says that “I just started a year or so ago really putting forth the effort to create art consistently. My father passed away in January of last year and honestly that gave me this almost philosophical life crisis. I think it was what made me change my career.”
Carter was the manager of a large hair salon, and it was the kind of job she’d done all her life: “I’ve always managed people and systems, and I’m good at it. But I got to where I didn’t really enjoy it. Everybody else who worked there was able to make other people feel beautiful. But I wasn’t doing anybody’s hair, I was writing people up for being late. I really needed a way to express emotion, and art is how I’ve always been able to do that; I have a lot of emotion to express. I just needed a change and that’s sort of how I came to this.”
Although her job shift led her to invest more time in creative activities, Carter also found time to volunteer at a homeless shelter: “My husband was doing it, and although I am more drawn to help with needy children, this was a good place to start. You feel needed there and purposeful. And maybe everybody wants that, but I certainly was looking for that – especially in the last year. And I was looking for a way to fill the need to create. I don’t think I was looking to have an exhibit or anything, but then as my work accumulated, I thought it might be fun. It’s intimidating to present stuff you’ve made, things that that come from your soul for other people to look at. You hope they have some sort of reaction, something that makes them feel something – whether it’s what you felt or not it doesn’t matter – as long as it’s something.”
Although she has dabbled in many forms, Carter’s current work lives squarely in the abstract. It’s a liberating style, she says, that allows her to express her inner rebel: “What I love about abstract so much is that it is so freeing. I hate to be controlled and basically I don’t like being told what to do. Of course, I can conform and I can definitely follow rules and accept certain things. But maybe this is just my way of rebelling outside of societal parameters. I don’t know but it does seem really freeing to me.”
In the ensuing year Kendra’s work has taken up a lot of space in her home and garage. It’s a space she shares with a husband who likes things to be a little more orderly, perhaps, than allowed by a life full of canvass and paint and the sundry material that go with them: “He’s the kind of guy who likes things to be in the right place, and now there’s paint on the garage floor and the walls are covered with color. But he’s been very supportive from the time I decided to change my career on, he said ‘I don’t care if you sell one piece, you can cover all the walls if that’s what you need to be happy.’”
Some stories have happy endings – or better yet, new and happy beginnings. This one does, and you can see it for yourself. Kendra Carter’s exhibit, My Way hangs in our Gallery Location.