Q&A with Beverly Fitzpatrick


There’s no one path to becoming a visual artist. Can you talk about your own development and how you’ve managed to balance a consistent studio practice with a busy life?   
I'm actually not that busy! Here is a Chinese proverb that I think about often: Only those who leisurely approach that which the masses are busy about can be busy about that which the masses take leisurely. For many years making art has been among the most important things in my life, along with being near my favorite people, going outside, and reading. These are the things I have given my time and energy to and it is not a challenge for me to stay devoted to that. When times come along that I am less inspired creatively, I continue to work with my hands. I either collect and cut out pictures for future use or do a sewing project or something, that way it's never a great leap to really get down to business. Another thing that has been helpful for me is just saying yes when people ask me to get involved with a project, even if there is something about it that scares me. I can learn the most by doing!

Your studio and your work are filled with things that we, as a culture, consider disposable (e.g., magazines, cardboard, scraps, found objects, etc.). Is ‘impermanence’ conceptually tied to your work or is it more a matter of convenience – or perhaps both? 
Yes, impermanence is a very important concept to me, both on a philosophical level and in my work. I don't believe in permanence or perfection! Although, rare exceptions can be found, or at least argued for. Like, honey never spoils. Its goodness is permanent. I am comfortable with the things I make falling apart eventually, so I guess that makes it reasonable to start out with old, crummy materials. I favor using familiar materials and techniques. I mean, familiar to everyone! So that, when viewed, it's like the skeleton of what I made is just hanging out and everyone can see how it is done. When I go to see art, sure, I like to have my hair blown back by looking at some technical masterpiece and wondering, how in the world did they DO that? But my favorite stuff is not like that. I love art where the story of how it was made is told while I'm looking at it. It makes me feel the potential within myself. Let me compare this to music. I love complicatedly dense, layered music. I enjoy having no idea how a song was made, it's a magical experience. I love to listen to pretty music. But what do I BELIEVE in? Punk rock! Dirty kids in dirty basements who believe they have a song in them and then they make it.

Many of the images in your collages are mined from the 1950-60s – often from magazines like Life and National Geographic. Is this particular time period critical to a greater understanding of your work or are you appropriating these images for an altogether different reason? 
I just love those images. Up through the 80s, really. However faulty the logic of such thoughts, I have always been one of those people who does not feel "of their time" and I like to imagine that I would feel more at ease in some past era. I'm sure that is part of the draw. A sense of nostalgia is something I am usually trying to convey in my collages. Plus, those old materials are just better in a lot of ways. The paper, the printing methods. The captions!

"The images can be something hard to explain, like a faded memory. Or, like you walked in the room right after something very interesting happened."

You mention in your artist statement that your practice relies ‘largely on intuition’ – are there specific narratives or stories that you find yourself coming back to that propel this intuition? This is hard for me to answer. I think the answer is not really. I like for there to be a sense of mystery in the collages, and I guess for me too, not just for the viewer! The images can be something hard to explain, like a faded memory. Or, like you walked in the room right after something very interesting happened. Or, the person in the piece is having a daydream and this is a picture of their moody reverie. I'm all about mood and balance.

During your residency with Makeshift, your work seems to be driven (at least more overtly) by our current socio-political anxieties. Do you agree, and if so, what caused this shift?
I do agree! The reason is because I can't look away from this terrifying shit show that is our national election! What I see going on in the world has always made its way into my work, but in the past I would synthesize those thoughts with other influences more fully. The timing of this residency made it impossible for me to resist being more vocal about what's going on. Reflecting on the multiple meanings of the word "mine", I attempted to create a path from the nightmare of war, to the absurdity of the election, to the role of greed in these things, to the question of what to do with my thoughts and feelings on these topics. Which is, to turn inward and try to make something worthy of sharing.

Posted on October 31, 2016 and filed under Q & A.