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This month, we're highlighting Mary Kramer, an Individual Artist Program (IAP) grant recipient, most recently in FY11. Ms. Kramer has been a visual artist for 28 years and has been awarded an IAP grant in three different grant cycles. Here's her story.
Indiana Arts Commission (IAC): Tell us a little bit about your work as an artist.
Mary Kramer (MK): I work with oils and mixed media (wax and pigments) and have been working for several years on a project I call "The Border Series." Some of these works are small paintings based on photos I have taken of the ground, at borders (international, state-to-state). Others are larger and involve light boxes with layering and translucence which contributes to the depth of understanding about just how fragile, if not imaginary, those borders really are. I tend to involve myself with series that last about 10 years and so I am still in the middle of all this work and anticipate that I will keep at it for awhile. Thanks to this grant, I was able to further develop the work and bring in the new component of light boxes.
IAC: Why did you initially apply for an IAP grant in 2011?
MK: I applied because I was feeling desperate to have more time for my work. I wanted to extend the border work into something I am calling "Ghost Borders," i.e. borders that did exist, but don't any longer. Once I have actually delved into a body of work I can keep going with it by working in my studio the three days a week that my work schedule allows. This has been my pattern for awhile since I have a demanding job (also in the arts). However, when I am thinking through new ideas, and experimenting with materials in a new way, I need more focused time than that, which isn't broken up by going into an office. I asked for funding to support my living expenses so that I could have an entire month to do my own work. I had not originally intended to apply for a grant during this cycle, and only decided very close to the deadline, and it was really driven by that desperate need to do my work.
IAC: You have received more than one IAP grant, what made you apply often?
MK: The IAC has offered support for my work, through these grants, in a variety of ways. Each of the 3 times I have received a grant it has been for a different aspect of my work - once for materials, framing, photography and shipping costs to develop a body of work that would be shown here, and in New Mexico; once for developing a website; and then this last one, time to do the work. I consider this support so important and am so grateful to the IAC for continuing to support individual artists. It made a difference to have this financial support and it also helped me to focus on a specific project.
IAC: What is your creative process?
MK: My work comes from a combination of ideas and observation. For example, in the current work, I am involved with the juxtaposition of a real piece of ground (at a border) and an imaginary line that does not really exist in the ground. I have noticed that even when my work was highly abstract (which it is not so much right now) I tended to root the works in something that had to do with the natural elements, something very connected to the ground. I have incorporated ideas about memory and language because I am interested in these ephemeral manifestations that so define our lives, while remaining invisible or in some ways inaccessible. I like to try to give shape to them, make them visible, palpable, something we can consider.
Other than that, I like working alone, without distractions and have made a studio by my house, in what was once a garage. I find that the rhythm of working steadily, even if only for several hours a day, is the best way for me. It is harder to keep going when I have to take large blocks of time away from the work.
IAC: Are you a full-time artist? If so, how did you get your start as an artist? If not, what else do you do?
MK: I am in the sense that art is my full time focus - but I am not able to be in the studio full time right now. I have periods where I was, which were wonderful and highly productive. I will always make art. As a child I wrote, played music and made quilts. Then one day when I was in my early 20's I decided to take a class in stained glass. I actually worked in that field for awhile, but also evolved to drawing and then to painting, which I have been doing for the past 28 years. If I go too long without doing my own work I don't feel quite right, so I try not to let that happen.
My job is running a non-profit organization that puts up site-specific outdoor public art in the Wabash Valley. It's a very intense job, but an important and exciting project for this city. It has been a huge creative challenge for me, and very gratifying, although in a different way than my own work is. The difference is: I could leave the job, but not my own work.
IAC: How long did it take you to apply for the IAP program grant in 2011?
MK: Probably 8 hours by the time I put everything together and wrote and re-wrote the grant, but it was broken up in different segments, so I am not exactly sure. I like time to revise what I have written so I don't usually wait until the last minute to get started. This one was a challenge because as I mentioned I didn't make up my mind to apply for it until close to the deadline.
IAC: Besides the funding, are there other benefits of receiving an IAP grant?
MK: It is a nice acknowledgement of your work by your (unknown) peers. It is important to know that your work has value to people that don't necessarily know you, and that it has meaning beyond the small world that you have created around you in your studio and the arena in which you normally show your work. It is an honor.
IAC: Anything else you'd like to say?
MK: I am very grateful for this support. It is nice to live in a state that still offers this meaningful contribution and acknowledgement to individual artists. We can't take it for granted. I encourage people to apply for this grant - the worst that can happen is that you won't get it. Also, I encourage people to voice their support for a state budget that continues to provide funding for the arts.