Of all places one would expect to hold an art exhibition, the weed-infested backyard of a restored warehouse might not rank high on the list at first. However, that’s exactly where the Georgia Museum of Art Student Association held its third annual art gallery and artist market at Stan Mullins Art Studio on Saturday, April 27.
Upon arrival, very little of the artwork could actually be seen. Vague directions were given by students standing every hundred feet or so, saying, “Keep following the trees” and “You’re almost there.” And still, there was nothing but shrubbery and ramshackle houses.
A 15-minute walk later, the first few booths could be seen peering out from thick greenery. There were tables upon tables, filled with everything from hand-sewn clothes, speckled pottery, meticulously crafted jewelry and paintings in every medium imaginable.
Students from the University of Georgia and Athens residents were present, giving the event a variety of pieces and aesthetics appealing to all ages.
After speaking to collectively to some of older artists, the consensus was the gravitation to Athens due to the diverse demographics and widespread art community that has developed over years of public exhibitions and festivals.
Events like these give the participants a place to share their journey and detail the journey to becoming an artist, despite obstacles such as stereotypes, competing for career paths and fiscal challenges.
“It’s really tough to get a job in the art world,” Ali Kocher, a senior studying interdisciplinary art at UGA, said.
With a focus on ceramics and textiles, Kocher has to determine her career path after graduation. For some artists, the thought of taking a public service job, or an office desk job, is simply unimaginable. Art — in essence — functions as both their life and source of income.
“It’s not like you work in an office and come home for the rest of the day and can put that in a compartment,” Toni Taylor an attendee from Orlando, Florida, said.
Taylor, a woman who was surrounded by expertly-crafted oil paintings, was introduced to drawing in her early years as a result of being sick throughout most of her childhood. She drew pictures in waiting rooms and her work was often hung on the walls by her doctors.
“They saw something in my drawings that was different than the rest of the kids, so he encouraged my mom to encourage me,” Taylor said.
However, doing so is challenging for most parents, especially when careers in the art field tend to lack a strong income, Taylor said.
Lark Tredwell agreed and said her parents were also skeptical of her artistic pursuit, and constantly attributed it to a phase she would eventually grow out of. Tredwell — who firmly stated she’s been an artist her whole life — knew that it was more than a pastime, but rather a part of who she was.
“You see things and you notice things that maybe they don’t notice,” Tredwell said, referring to people outside artistic professions.
Tredwell, along with the artistic community at large, know that to them, the world is divided into two categories: those who understand art and everyone else.
Despite the skepticism of friends and family, Tredwell, who is now a master beekeeper, decided to continue pursuing an art degree because she wanted to spend her time doing what she loved.
Tredwell realized early on in order to be successful as an artist, specialization in one or two crafts was imperative. Combining her love of art with her passion for insects, she now sells bee patterned fabrics and prints, while simultaneously educating buyers about the insects.
While Tredwell’s source of inspiration is rather quirky, most artist’s ideas come from their day-to-day experiences. As a self-taught artist with a degree in education from Bowman, Georgia, Ellen Miles took up drawing at 6 years old, and to this day uses nature to spark creative interest.
“I’ll see something and I’ll say, ‘Oh, I want to make that,’” Miles said. “Sometimes it’s nature and sometimes it’s industrial.”
Miles’ inspiration is evident in all her pieces, the majority of her jewelry fashioned with delicate glass and clay. Earthen tones are scattered throughout, highlighted by glints of brassy golds and industrial silvers.
“For me, stick me in the woods and it’s the calmest I’ll ever be,” Tina Lawrence, a native from Barrow County, Georgia, said. “It’s meaningful to me because I feel like I’m working in, and creating, this moment of peace that hopefully, someone else can feel.”
Her work, like Miles’, draws heavily from her surroundings. Ocean blues cover her pieces, the majority of them speckled like sunlight dappled leaves, some with faint traces of mountains.
“Where don’t I get my inspiration?” Taylor said.
For her as well as the other artists at the event, doing art has become not only a hobby or profession but a way of life. Her muse is anything and everything, from conversations with friends to song lyrics, she uses the mundane and magical to create her fantastical and exquisite fantasy art.
“You have to be true to you are,” Taylor said. “Because you’ll be miserable otherwise.”