About mid-way through my sabbatical, I had the chance to visit Crown Point Press in San Francisco. Crown Point was the primary print studio for Richard Diebenkorn, the reason for this visit; I wanted to see the current exhibition of his aquatint “Green,” which examined his artist process of editing and working through editions. Fortunately, the space and its adjoining studio were relatively unoccupied; the Business Manager, Stacie, kindly offered a guided tour of their gallery, storage spaces, and print studio. It was an informative and personalized tour, and Stacie was wonderful; her anecdotes gave life to the place. At one point, she said, "Years ago, when Diebenkorn was here, he smiled and said, ‘Oh, that's the chair from my old studio.’ " Apparently, he was happy to see that Crown Point Press gave it a new home. Gazing at that spattered seat, notes masterworks all over it, I asked, "Is it still stable for, like, sitting?" Stacie sensed the obvious, angling question, and asked, "Would you like to sit on it?" Embarrassed, but not too embarrassed, I said, "Yes."
The concept for my Olsson Sabbatical was to visit locations where artists embraced place, or conversely, where places embraced artists. We all have heroes; mine happen to be artists. They are folks like Winslow Homer, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Diebenkorn, Jackson Pollock, Donald Judd, and David Park (to name a handful). They were all inspired by the locations in which they lived. And while my work may look different than those mentioned, I wanted to see how those special spaces influenced my own practice. So I had to travel. And for the most part, I chose to drive.
Driving allowed for flexibility (and deviations) in plans (which I liked). For miles and miles, the windows in the car functioned as picture frames in the ever-changing landscape. I'd often stop the car and photograph the landscapes or topography color. I was constantly amazed at the shifting light and dynamism of the terrain. And it was no surprise that many of these areas led up to, or were part of my itinerary of artist places. I was inspired by it all, both the destinations, and the stuff in between. And because I wasn't encumbered by my usual teaching load, I was singularly focused with wide eyes at what the explorations presented.
As I would have predicted a year ago, the travels did not disappoint in their power to educate and to motivate. Upon returning home after each trip, I was energized to produce work referencing my time away. This gallery exhibits only a sampling of the paintings and photography from the year, and I’m by no means finished with my investigation of places visited; there’s still more I want to create.
There was no risk to this sort of art search; I knew that I’d find inspiration at each destination. That was obvious, if not predictable. Certainly surprises came in the form of people I met, but more often than not, I was humbled by the outreach from our own Episcopal community. Teachers, families, and graduates were resources for me at every step. Be it a guest room for the night, a good meal, a contact for art insiders, advice for navigating unfamiliar cities, or just some company and conversation… these are the moments that gave greater depth to the overall experience. So, even though I was away from campus, this community was never far from my heart. I’m so thankful for the opportunity and for this very special place we have here.