Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a French Canadian, born in Montréal. I spent most of my adult life traveling around the world, driven by an obsession to understand the shared consciousness throughout humanity. Eventually, I turned this passion into a business, importing textiles and art objects from Asia to Canada. Collaborating with people of different cultures by way of”commerce” altered my status from simple observer to economic participant, this allowed me to have access to new customs and provided an opportunity to see the common thread regardless of diversity. I had worked as an artist for a short time in my twenties and stopped to become nomadic, but at age 42, I decided to embrace this path with a full commitment.I eventually moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I established my home and studio.
What influences your art?
As an artist, I am a witness and a creator. I am interested in the imprints of our passage, traces left behind. I am also looking to uncover and express emotions, conditions, or states of being. I have been looking at our essence before it is transformed through socialization and how it manifests as it lingers when we have departed.
The core of my art is the creation of the image which may or may not find another expression as a painting or a glass piece. I have been photographing children for the purpose of connecting with a foundation that we seem to bury as we get older. I am often surprised by how these young people allow such depths to manifest so naturally, without editing what they are feeling. Not only are they interacting with me as I am directing the photo sessions, but they are interacting with themselves. I also photograph abandoned farm houses, beauty parlors, prisons, asylums, industrial buildings, and reformatories in the U.S. and in other countries. I wander outside and inside these buildings, looking for the icons of our existence: objects, architecture, writings. I look for stories or hints of stories, I let the environment express what happened. There is a sense of the sacred, inspiring great respect, when I witness the evidence of human suffering and give myself permission to photograph it. As I work, questions arise and they often take me beyond any art concept that I may have imagined prior to the photo session. I, then, redefine or build a different architecture for the path of the images.
How does your painting, photography, and glass influence each other?
An energy circulates between the three mediums that I use and they influence each other. When I work with the camera, I am partly shaping what will be created with glass and when I work with glass, I often consider how I will use the camera. This interrelation also includes my paintings: an atmosphere in a glass piece will find its way to the canvas and a painting concept will be transferred to the other mediums.
When did you decide to incorporate photography into your art, or was that something you have always used?
I started as a painter and simultaneously learned to use the camera so that I would have images from which to paint. Shortly after, photography took its place within my art path. About five years ago I decided to use my photography in conjunction with a new medium, glass.
Do you find yourself drawn to one media over the others?
I find myself drawn to a medium in particular depending on the expressive channel I need. Painting is intimate, it draws the viewer to its content. Photography can feel a little distant but may carry a loud and raw voice. Glass will often give the image a transcendent body, when one feels a sense of manipulated space. At times I desire a specific sensuous experience and I choose a medium which will give it to me. There is such an attractive quality to the movement of a paintbrush on the canvas, and the same thing could be said about the exhilaration of connecting with a subject while looking through the viewfinder of the camera. Glass offers another visual and tactile experience altogether, more expansive that the other two. All three mediums invite different results and different voices.
What inspired you to combine glass art and photography?
One day, when I was looking at a 4 x 5 slide of one of my paintings on the light box, I was struck by the ethereal quality of the projected image. That day, I decided that I would find a way to incorporate images to glass. I started experimenting with the medium and decided to learn about the properties of glass so that I could achieve my goal. Through its forms and because of its quality, glass can deliver a narrative and convey my interpretations.
Do you ever suffer from ” creative block”, and if so how do you overcome it?
I do not suffer from creative block, on the contrary I wish that there were two or three ofme so that I could create all that lives within.
What is an ideal day for you?
A day when I know that what I am doing is influenced by a flow of thoughts and feelings that only comes from integrity and true passion, from where joy mixes with the struggle of bringing forth a voice that, even though it is mine, speaks for many.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?
I am moved by the photography of Josephine Sacabo, she is able to tap into an essence that few artists have achieved. I also admire the work of Diane Arbus, Jack Spencer, Sally Mann, and Rosanne Olson; they show us humanity in its simple and complex form.
How does your art effect the way you view the world?
My art does not effect the way I view the world, the way I view the world effects my art. Art has become my voice. During the 25 years of seeing and experiencing as much of the world as I could, I used words to describe what I lived and saw. Now I am able tospeak with images, forms, and materials. Perhaps someday, after bathing in this creative process long enough, I will come to perceive the world through it.
Can you tell us about your recent work, what it means to you and what you hope the viewer takes from it?
In the last year and a half I have been working on creating images that transcend the obvious. What we live collectively carries signatures and I aim to know them, to work with them, to share my understanding of them. I am using objects as symbols for my concepts and my thoughts, attempting to create links between our intrinsic nature and how we live it. I am developing a closer relationship with photography at this time, preparing for a long trip with my camera, aiming to cultivate a reflection and a visual dialogue on “resilience”. I don’t have expectations as far as how the viewer will receive the work that will emerge from this next phase. I prefer not to think about it so that the work retains its integrity.
Any up coming shows, projects, or workshops you would like to share?
This year I am not planning on an exhibition I will spend the first half teaching and lecturing and the second half traveling. I have chosen to share with others what I know about images and glass. I will be teaching at Oatka glass school in April, at Pillchuck glass school in May and at Pittsburgh glass center in July. I also teach privately I am working on collaborative projects with other artists where we will merge our skills and concepts to create fusions that, hopefully, will surprise us.
Additionally, I am working on a large glass piece which will be integrated in an outside environment. This is a collaboration with the landscape artist Pauline Durand in Montréal, Canada.
Any words or thoughts you would like to share with other artist ?
The mythologist and professor Joseph Campbell said it well, “Follow your bliss”.
One must know who they are, what they are meant to create, and walk that path with determination.
As artists, we are easily distracted by “what we should do”, it is well worth to have the courage to let that go and trust ourselves.
Thank you Joanne for sharing your work and words. To learn more about Joann Teasdale please visit her site, at Teasdale Art.