Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Interview with an Artist Redux

Part 2: Interview with Yolanda Sharpe

Has anyone left an impact on your art? What has been the biggest influence on your work?

My favorite opera singers are many. Those that come to the top of my list: Sopranos Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, Leontyne Price, Zinca Milanov. Tenors: Jussi Bjรถrling, and Mario Del Monaco. Baritone: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. . . to name a few. Soprano, Maria Callas is in a class all by herself! I learn about the meaning of words, colors, and music that should come from the voice. Whenever I listen to recordings of her singing, she teaches me that the character’s mood, intentions, and destiny are all wrapped up in the musical score –which reveals the composer’s true focus.

There are many more singers that I like and appreciate, but I don’t want to ramble on.

In regards to the visual arts, once again, there are plenty of artists who have inspired me along the way, and they come from different centuries. Of the most contemporary artists, I wish that I could purchase work from: Elizabeth Murray, Howardena Pindelle, Brian Fekete, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Leslie Parke, McArthur Binion, Janet Fish, Joseph Raffael,  Sondra Freckleton, Thom Shaw and so forth. I also like the graffiti artist team, BLU. They have a wonderful web site that features their still drawings, and videos: http://blublu.org/

Inspiration is often an elusive element for young artists and poets. Did you ever have difficulty becoming inspired?
No. I have more ideas to work on than I have time in any given day to do them! I find that once I get started with a body of work the ideas flow to, and through me. I don’t wait to be “inspired”. I just work, and go on from there.

Some poets and artists spend months completing a single project. How much time do you usually need to finish one of your pieces?

On average, it takes me from two to three and one half years to complete a body of work, using a particular medium. A long-shot view, however, reveals that I have worked much longer than three years when I step back far enough to see the totality of what I’ve been working on. For example, in 2007, I began working on a series of color pencil and pen & ink drawings. The following year, I expanded my work to focus exclusively on ink, and on larger sheets of paper. This work took me on a journey to produce a series of artists’ books, working from both drawing and the digital medium. Currently, this year, I am designing a composition for a 360-inch long drawing that will use mixed mediums. I think that it will take at least two years to work through this current project.

The watercolor series is another topic. And the same goes for my work with the encaustic (painting with wax) medium.  So, I can’t wait around for inspiration! The ideas are crashing around in my mind, and they are looking to be released into all of these projects.

What has been your proudest moment?

I hate to say this, but I don’t know of any one singular moment along. There have been several moments that I was proud of, and I am quite fond of the experiences gained within those moments. Some that come to mind are: 1) learning that I received the Fulbright Scholarship to travel and work in Russia, 2) seeing the concert hall filled beyond seating capacity in Krasnoyarsk, Russia when I came to sing a concert there, 3) seeing my advanced students receive awards for their paintings in notable exhibits, 4) being granted the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and 5) receiving help from friends for my concert to raise funds for the local food bank  Most importantly, however, I am always happiest when I can tell people that the Lord helped me through every accomplishment. This is the most thrilling moment, I think.

Is there an artwork or poem that has an especially deep meaning for you or that you’re particularly fond of?

Artwork that my friends give me has special meaning. Once I receive such treasures, I take the artwork down to Artware in Oneonta and have it framed. Also, your mother, Marly Youmans, wrote a poem regarding her impressions of me called, ”Pome for Yo”, and she sent it to me earlier this year. This is intriguing for me, as no one – especially no writer with her international stature - has written a poem about me before. So, I cherish this poem very much.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview with an Artist

Yolanda Sharpe is one of the great gems of central New York, displaying a sense of persistent excellence and artistic flexibility few can aspire to. Yolanda was born in Detroit, and studied painting, printmaking and art history at the University of Michigan, where she graduated in 1979. Three years later she graduated from Wayne State University with a Masters of Fine Arts in 1982. She has had a substantial impact upon the art scene of upstate New York since her arrival in 1987. She was head of the SUNY Oneonta Art Department for a number of years, and maintains an active lifestyle in both art and music of the local area. She has a solo exhibit at the Bloomfield Art Center at Birmingham Michigan entitled "Urban Fragments", as well as an upcoming one in 2013 at the Cooperstown Art Association, and can also be found singing at the Glimmerglass during the summer and the Episcopal Church through autumn and winter. She specializes in encaustic painting, watercolors and pen and ink drawings. This past week, Yolanda was kind enough to answer some of our questions about her life and art. This article covers half of this interview. Her artwork can be found at her website here.

I was under two years old when I was compelled to draw on the walls in the house where I grew up. My parents were not pleased at all with this, especially since I insisted on using Crayola crayons! So, regularly (every day, actually) I was spanked for doing this. In my toddler’s mind, since I knew that I should draw, as it felt natural for me to do this, and since I wanted to grow up and do big artworks (I am currently working to secure a commission to do a huge wall piece for some public space), and since I saw my father making paintings, I did not see the connection between drawing on the walls, and the spankings. Eventually, my parents realized that I was not going to stop. They began supplying me with various materials to draw and paint with . . . to keep me away from the walls around the house.

How old were you when you first began making art and singing?
I was very young when I began to sing, say, maybe three, or four years old. My parents, and aunts and uncles played jazz and the blues. So, I would make up blues songs about how my man wasn’t treating me right. Of course, I had no clue about what any of that stuff meant. It’s just what I heard. However, when my father played classical music, and followed this with playing the classics by ear on his own harmonicas, I realized that I had found the kind of music that I should learn to sing. The melodies and structure of the music from different time periods resonated with me, and I wanted to learn more about the composers.

As a child, I was curious, and easily bored with classroom activities, especially when I attended kindergarten through fourth grade. So, I daydreamed a lot! One day, when I was in second grade, I daydreamed so intently that I seemed to be able to look into the future (I did this quite a lot then . . . I still do too). I saw myself as a young woman, and I heard myself singing an Italian aria that I had never heard of before. Now, I know the aria to be Verdi’s “D’ amour sull’ ali rosee” from Il Trovatore. And yes, that aria is one of many arias that have become part of the repertoire that I sing. In this vision, I was practicing this aria while standing between two wooden columns inside a house. This experience though strange points to truth, as I realize that I was seeing my current house. I do have wooden columns that are situated between my living room and dining room. And, I do practice standing right there between the columns when I am at home.

But, I digress. . . Thus, after this vision into the future, when I was seven years old, I was determined to find out where this music came from, and to see how I could learn to sing this. This quest has taken me many places, singing many songs and arias.

In a related question, how were you first drawn into art and music?
I come from a family, from my father’s side, of musicians, artists, and singers. It was inevitable that I would try to see how art and music could become my life coming from this environment. I was very fortunate that I had parents that did not frown upon active studies and involvement in the arts. In fact, they encouraged it.

As a small child, I began to study the piano with intentions of possibly becoming a classical pianist. However, there were times when I’d practice fast scales and stop to sing them instead. It became evident that I sang them more fluidly than I played them on the piano.

When I graduated from High School I attended Interlochen Arts Academy in Traverse City, Michigan. This was a dream come true! There I studied piano, voice, and studio art. During the fall semester of my seventeenth year, I began undergraduate studies at Michigan State University and decided to keep up with both studio art and music. This time, however, I switched from piano to voice.

I have had the pleasure of listening to you sing several times. I have usually heard you sing hymns and gospel music. Did you have a favorite growing up or one that had a particular meaning for you?
My maternal grandmother taught me a hymn, What A Friend I Have In Jesus”, and she asked me to sing it to her.  Singing this hymn to her is the moment that crystallized for me that I should pursue singing. That hymn provides a plaintiff melody, I think, but it always reminds me of my grandmother, and that moment. I also like the gospel song, Oh, How I Love The Lord.

As for classical repertoire, composers Johann Sebastian Bach, and George Frideric Handel provide much for me to learn and sing. I love their sacred music. 

Check out this page tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Yolanda Sharpe.

Master of the web--

Our new webmaster is Benjamin Francis Miller, a 2012 graduate of Mars Hill College near Asheville, North Carolina. He is a History major and English minor, with a good many courses and acting experience in theatre. He has also done museum work and has won several creative writing awards. Benjamin spent the summer working crew for Lewis Repertory Theatre in North Carolina and is now looking for a job from his home in Cooperstown, New York.