Edgewater Gallery is proud to introduce a new feature of the blog called “Meet The Artist” where we interview our upcoming featured artists and learn about their inspirations and their quirks. We hope you enjoy this opportunity to learn more about the artists and see them and their work in a different capacity!
H E L E N S H U L M A N
When I was a therapist I used to tell people who would ask me how to change: “do you really
want to change?” The question isn’t how but whether. I would encourage them if they were really willing to do things differently because it has been my experience that once the answer to the question “are you willing?” is answered affirmatively, the “how to” pretty much presents itself. For me, the same is true with my art. It seems that some days I just beat my head against the wall—or in this case a panel—but if I am willing to be more open, then inspiration presents itself in a variety of surprising ways from a beautiful cloud formation to the koi in the pond outside my studio, shadows, emotions stirred by a comment, a poem, a memory, a sound, a touch.
How do you come up with the titles for your work?
As I’m working many feelings, associations, and stories emerge. Sometimes they work
themselves into titles. I’m trying to set a mood with the title, something that will, in conjunction with the piece, invite the viewer’s own feelings, associations and stories. My brother once said to me: “Helen, when I look at your work, I never ask ‘what is it?’ Rather I ask ‘how does it make me feel?'”
What would you have been in a previous life?
I have two masters’ degrees; one in mathematics and one in social work. My first career was built around math and the second around mental health. If I had this life to do over, I would probably do pretty much what I did. Being able to impact people through being a teacher and then a therapist and being impacted by them are very important to me. However, if I had an entirely new life to live, I hope I would have the courage to be an artist from the very beginning.
What recent exhibitions or artists have inspired you lately?
I love going to museums. The biggest surprise inspiration of the last few months was Peter Doig at the Montreal Museum of Art. A group of artist friends took a road trip to Montreal. I knew little about Peter Doig and wasn’t overly excited about going. However, when I saw his work, I was impressed and definitely inspired. Now I’m a fan. There is also an exhibit at the Hall Foundation in Reading, VT which included work by Neil Jenney and Olafur Eliasson that moved me.
What are your hobbies outside of being an artist?
One of the things I love to do is dance with my husband. How many husbands dance? Mine
got me into it. We do ballroom, swing, salsa and Argentine tango. There’s nothing like working
hard all day in the studio and then going dancing with my husband at night. We have learned
that dancing is a universal language. In our travels, we’ve found dance venues all over the world including a simple abode in the Amazon forest that had no electricity but had a battery powered radio playing American rock and roll which allowed us to show some swing moves, and a club in Hanoi where we were intrigued by Vietnamese-style ballroom. We certainly stood out in the crowd—the only westerners and the tallest people in the room!