Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kathleen Campbell Encourages Students to Use Inspiration

by Leah Guilmette '09

On September 16, Chester College welcomed photographer and mixed media artist, Kathleen Campbell for its Visiting Artist Symposium. Campbell, one of the first artists of the semester, was greeted in the Wadleigh conference room by a crowd so large that even after pulling in chairs from other areas of the library, several went without seats as she gave her lecture.
Campbell opened her lecture with work from the teachers who inspired her then moved on to her own works in chronological order from her time at both the University of Florida, Gainesville and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

When discussing her work, Campbell said, “I never thought of making a straight photograph. I always thought a photograph was something you did and then did something else to it,” which explains why her photography usually incorporates other mediums. Campbell “always wanted to be one of those people who could do something simple and elegant with string or something,” but said she was never able to because “everything takes me forever." 

“All these people were rediscovering processes,” Campbell said of her time in school, “processes that had been looked down upon by the modernists. Through the 60s and 70s people were doing things like mostly breaking all the rules.”

Campbell's lecture was full of personal experiences and lessons she had learned while she was growing as an artist. To the students she said, “If you have to learn something you don't want to learn, it is going to be good for you.” While in school she struggled to meet her teachers’ expectations at the University of New Mexico. “The teachers asked me what my work meant to other people,” she said. “They said I needed to make it more generalizable so others could enter it.” The teachers had wanted more meaning in her work so as a response Campbell made what she called "The Meaning of Life," in which everything she used had it's own meaning. “They didn't really like it and neither did I,” she said.

At one point Campbell had to sit down with her work and look at them in order, look at them apart and take it all in while she was in grad school. “You find you sort of have a dialog with your pieces,” and she found that “all this religious imagery kept coming up.” She credits her parents for sending her to Sunday school too many times.

Campbell said that when you begin work, like hers on her "Angel Series" or "Photographs of Widely-Known Non-Existent Beings," “you start and hope for the best.” She soon realized that what she was doing was “making things that inspire her.” Before she closed her lecture she had some more advice for students and artists. “Whatever is you, whatever is inspiring you, that is your insides, that is your gut, is going to come out in your images just like it comes out in your handwriting or your stories or anything else,” she said. “It comes right out of you and you don't have to find your style or find your topic. It is going to find you. All you have to do is listen to that little voice that keeps bringing stuff up for you.”

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