Annette Coleman: Expressing the Fleeting Nature of Dreams
Annette Coleman is an artist and radio podcast host from Colorado. Her radio show focuses on artists and their crafting of their careers. I’ve phoned into her show on a few occasions and joined in on the day’s conversations. It was refreshing to get to speak to this successful, female artist.
ST: Hello Annette. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I’ve spoken to you briefly a few times as a call-in artist back when you had your radio show (which I very much miss). It is great to have the opportunity to speak to you again.
*What is the reason for art? What meaning does art have in your life and how did that meaning develop?
AC: Art is the visual expression of the human condition. Each expression is as valid as the artist expressing it. Words are limiting but color, line and form are limitless.
ST: Can you tell me a bit about your history? How did you come to be an artist? How long have you been an artist? Were you formally trained?
AC: I remember drawing, coloring and being interested in art from a young age. In second grade I won a drawing contest and never looked back. I never thought I would be anything else but an artist. Of course as a child I did not have a clue as to what this really looked like. After attending Colorado State University and the Colorado Institute of Art, I embarked on a design and advertising career that have included positions at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, the Colorado Historical Society, and a number of Colorado's leading advertising agencies. I formed my communications company in 1993 and continue to help clients with their marketing needs in addition to pursuing my fine art and public art career.
Public service for other artists locally and nationally has been a big part of my life. I played a leading role in organizing the NoBo Art District in North Boulder Colorado in the early years 2004- 2015. As part of this community I opened my home studio for First Friday’s and Boulder Open Studios 90+ times thus becoming one of the key hubs for community engagement and artist connection.
While working full time as an advertising specialist I developed a strong style and unique imagery in my fine art.
ST: Your art is very textured and layered, airy, dreamy. What are you intending to communicate with your art? What is it about?
AC: I’m a modern day dream catcher, working with dreams, the meanings, the layers, the images that occupy the dreamstate, the fragments that we remember and symbols that are evocative of the message of the dream. I use old woodcuts and linocuts as well as drawn images to evoke the mystery of the dreams. These images are copied on Mylar and suspended within wax and pigments. On some of the squares images flow from one square to the next but each square holds at least one key image. Seemingly unrelated images are melded together by the consistency of black and white lines, archetypal images and brush filled color strokes that flow from one image and one square to the next. As part of the dream series I developed a canvas that changes color on specific images as it heats and cools, to better express the fleeting nature of dreams, how transitory and ethereal the dream world.
ST: Tell me about your creative process. What inspires you? What motivates you?
AC: The work is what it is all about. The process, showing up doing the work and communicating what is unseen in our world. Others will take their meaning from the work and thus contribute as well. Emotion is expressed with color, form and line. I love to see the ideas that are in my head expressed on canvas in this world.
ST: Can you tell me more about this canvas that changes color you developed? That sounds so intriguing.
AC: The Color Transformation of Dreams
When exploring the dreamstate I have always wanted to portray the fleeting nature of dreams, and how they change. I have been working with the statement: ‘To make the invisible, visible’.
With the input from my scientist cousin, Gerald N. Hays, PhD, physicist I have found a film that reacts to heat by changing color.
Using the unique properties of liquid-crystal-based film that responds to ambient temperature changes in a way that provides a multi-hued visual effect under ordinary lighting conditions. The heat source for the film is hidden behind the metal canvas and the viewer is treated to a changing canvas thus ‘the invisible is made visible by color’. Each image has it’s own unique look within the heat sequence and each image has it’s own zenith when it is at it’s best.
Each time you look at the can- vas you see something different. The canvas when cool is almost in a blank canvas stage, little color, until the heat starts cycling on and off and the color becomes vibrant and the objects come to life. I remember as a child seeing color TV for the first time. This canvas is a return to that wonder and excitement that I experienced and never thought to see again.
I use old woodcuts and linocuts as well as drawn images to evoke the mystery of the dreams. These images are copied on mylar and suspended within wax and pigments with the film sandwiched behind the mylar image. These black drawings are placed over the black film. You can’t see the detail since it is black on black.
Enjoy with me – making the invisible, visible with vibrant color and form.
ST: Many people, sometimes-even artists themselves have the view that the starving artist’s image is true. Do you find that to be so? What bearing does that view have on your efforts in an artistic career?
AC: Some people think that being a starving artist is what you need to do to have your art have true meaning. But, an artist is a creative individual that weaves a whole life living artistically. Many different careers, jobs and experiences form who you are and what your work is and becomes. Some artists teach, have service jobs, graphic careers, such as myself or have a career in an unrelated field but they still are artists if they continue to do the creative work too. If you live the life of an artist–all that you do is part of that life. What you select to live with, where and who is part of that life informs your work and gives it meaning. Everything as an artist is a medium to work in. I cook as an artist, arrange flowers as an artist, paint as an artist, dress as an artist, furnish my home as an artist and write as an artist, it is a part of the whole.
ST: How have you struggled and what have been your greatest obstacles? How have your struggles affected your work?
AC: The hardest part of my art career was finding the blocks of time to work when raising my daughter, working full time and pursuing a fine art career. Having a show once a year as part of a coop gallery has been a great motivator. It’s you and the white wall unless you do the work. I would get up at 4:00 in the morning and work till breakfast on my upcoming body of work. Each show gave me the opportunity to explore a new direction, refine a body of work further or reinvent a new medium to work in.
ST: One peculiar thing I found is that when you had your radio show most of the artists calling in were women, but out in the art world it seems as if most artists are men. Do you find this to be so? Why do you think that is? Has your being a female artist ever affected your art opportunities adversely? Do you think there is a double standard for women artists?
AC: I think that for most women artists their lives are so intertwined with family life that it is hard to have the pure hours of time needed to get as far as a man in an art career. It is a numbers thing. Men traditionally have the support of a spouse devoted to them and their career. If you look at women artists without a family they are further in their careers due to less distractions and yes, more time to explore and devote to their art. Our society puts less value on a woman’s vision. Period. There are just as many if not more artists that are women but it is still a man’s world in major galleries and museums. Do we get the big shows at museums? No. And as we address gender inequality and look at why women don’t have many shows we won’t see some of the best work, women’s work, it will remain hidden behind the veil so to speak.
ST: What do you think we can do to advance the perception of and the work of female artists?
AC: In general, women artists are not represented in the numbers that male artists are. Until our society changes to value a woman's voice and perspective as much as a man's, those numbers won't change. Women working together to change those perceptions will help but unless men also champion women as well, we won't see equality in numbers of women represented in museums or galleries.
ST: Money, fame, notoriety; Artists always have something they want. What do you want? Do you consider yourself to be succeeding in that and why?
AC: To live a life filled with art, my work, friends and family and helping other artists is what I have wanted in my life. It is success. I feel fulfilled as an artist and as a person and will continue to perform the great juggle of family, work, friends and pubic service as others have before me.
ST: What was your biggest setback or failure? Where did it take you?
AC: Setbacks or failures are just words and concepts that I don’t use. If I don’t get a show or commission that I think I deserve or want I look at it as learning how to talk about my work or do my work better. Maybe I have to write ten proposals to get one commission or show in five different venues to get noticed for the venue I would like to show at. Putting in the work, staying in the studio, getting out in the world to openings and shows is a constant work in progress. A push-me, pull-me struggle. The opportunities are there if you put yourself out there regardless of what type of work you do.
ST: What things, attitudes or processes are working well for you in your artistic career/endeavors?
AC: Showing up to do the work. Trying to get better on each work of art. Being professional, do what you say you are going to do. Be supportive of others in their artistic pursuits, after all you, as a fellow artist, know how hard it is. Having an open mind for others’ work. Each creation has merit even if you don’t understand or like it.
ST: To what other activities have your creative abilities taken you?
AC: I’ve learned to communicate better as a radio show host on art topics. Having to ‘listen’ rather than ‘look’ and respond or ask a further question is very humbling. My natural medium is the visual world and the audio world does not come to me easily at all. Editing audio files for meaning and organizing those shows for a larger audience is a challenge for me. But, I’ve learned that my natural curiosity as an artist and love of people is key to the interview.
ST: Looking back on everything you’ve done, is there anything you’re most proud of?
AC: Showing up and doing the work with or without approval of anyone but myself. That alone is enough.
ST: On occasion, people who are not artists may ask questions which artists sometimes feel are not appropriate, like “Do you make a living from your art - how much?” or questions not easily answered, like “How long did that take you to make?” How do you feel about those types of questions? How do you answer them?
AC: These types of questions are people trying to make a connection to you as an artist. They don’t know much about the process and the artists’ life so they ask questions that have meaning for them. I try and answer their questions honestly and ask them questions about their life too. Making a human connection is the key to art sales. Many artists tell me that they only sell to friends and family and I tell them “they just need more friends”.
ST: What do you want people to know about artists?
AC: That the artist’s whole life is the art.
ST: Who is “Annette Coleman”? What is the one thing you want people to know about you?
AC: Each person will come away with a different “Annette Coleman” based on what is important to them. My idea for what that is, is not in my control.
ST: Where can people find you and your work?
AC: You can find me on social media at: facebook.com/AnnetteColemanArtist, Twitter: @AnnetteColeman & AnnetteColemanArtist.com.
ST: Thank you Annette for taking the time to meet with us at Studio Tour Magazine. This was a very inspiring interview.
AC: Thank you for this opportunity Thom.